April 1, 2013
Sex: At Our Age? After Retirement?
The title of this post will probably generate extra views and spam. Mention sex and virtually everyone perks up. Even though sex is required for the continuation of the species and is a natural and normal activity as part of a healthy life, the subject comes with tremendous baggage. Some of that baggage is cultural, some religious, some from lack of information, and some from too much information.
Why am I writing about a subject that is as taboo as politics or deep religious discussions for most polite conversations? Because it is a subject that is important but pretty much ignored in the retirement blogging world.
If you are reading for a gratuitous thrill or titillation you will be disappointed. I am not discussing specific activities, body parts, or anything that may shock you. There will be no YouTube video clip. I won't be discussing my sex life. My intention is a mature discussion, not a wink and snicker interaction.
The questions are really simple: What role does sex play in a relationship as we age? How important is it? How does it change over the years? Is there a way to maintain a romantic feeling without sex?
Plenty of studies indicate that our improved health allows for sexual activity to extend well into our later years. Common wisdom used to be that "senior citizens" didn't engage in sexual activity after a certain age, often by 60. But, recent studies rebuke that. In fact, a federal study released last year found that at least a quarter of respondents still were sexually active into their 70's and and 80's. The decline in sexual activity can be traced as much to being alone after the death of a partner as to physical or psychological reasons.
It is true that sexual activity does taper down for many in their late 50's. But, it certainly doesn't have to stop. There may be changes in the type of activities undertaken, but total cessation is usually not necessary.
There are obvious physical changes that happen to our bodies. Embarrassment over sags and bags can prevent someone from feeling comfortable during love making. Male and female bodies may not perform the way we want them to as we age. While pills or other medications can help, the result isn't as natural or spontaneous as we remember.
So, what should be done? What can be done?
The most important answer is no different when you are 60 or 70 than when you were 20 or 30: become engaged in sexual activity for the right reasons, like love and companionship and not become someone wants you to or you feel you are "supposed to." From what I have read, the pressure to have sex doesn't stop just because a certain birthday is reached. And, that type of pressure is wrong at any age.
Your doctor can determine if you are healthy enough for any type of sexual activity. Various medications can be prescribed if the need is indicated. Probably every single one of us would be hesitant to discuss this with a doctor. But, I think you will find your physician understands how important sex can be to your emotional and physical well being so he or she should be strongly supportive.
Other web sites dealing with this subject offer plenty of options for maintaining the physical or romantic side of a relationship even if sexual activity is not possible. Holding hands while walking or cuddling on the sofa while watching a movie together allows for the power of touch. Hugging and kissing can be quite pleasant any age.
Having a regular "date night" could mean a meal at a favorite restaurant followed by a walk together while holding hands and window shopping. Or, it could mean shutting off the computers and cell phones, lighting a few candles while dimming the lights, and watching a movie together at home. The key is to make time to be with each other without interruptions. Sex doesn't have to be on the menu for a date night to be memorable and meaningful.
The web site, romanceclass had an excellent summary of the way to think about non-sexual romantic activities: "Intimacy is all about two people forming a connection and bond between them. That involves becoming best friends, trusting each other, knowing each other, understanding each other. A couple holding hands and sitting together quietly, watching a sun set, can be FAR more intimate and connected than sex. Intimacy is grown and developed, it can't be rushed."
Absolutely. I guess if I throw in my 2 cents worth (and I probably should) keeping the romance alive is a very important part of a satisfying retirement. If it involves fulfilling, consensual sexual activity that is great. If it involves looking into each other's eyes, holding hands, giving a shoulder rub after a tough day, or simply giving your full attention when your partner wants to talk that will heighten your intimacy and satisfaction every bit as much.
One thing we can be thankful for: the pressure to perform in one way, and one way only, is something most of us left back in our youth. Life and love are so much richer when you engage all your senses and your mind instead of just your body.
If you'd like some additional thoughts, this is an excellent web site:
Help guide for elder sexuality