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Sex Over 60

Optimal Sexual Experiences in Later Life

Most people see ageing as a negative process, including when it comes to our sexuality. Optimal sexual experiences are deemed to require a young, supple body with endless endurance and capacity for circus-type positioning. Those over 60 are seen as undesirable, incapable of having “real” pleasure and thus no longer interested in sex. But many of these stereotypes are inaccurate. If we talk to actual people over 60, we can hear a very different story. The Optimal Sexual Experience Research Team at the University of Ottawa interviewed folks over the age of 60 who have had positive sexual relationships of at least 25 years. You may be surprised to learn that they shared very different inspiring stories to the mainstream narrative. They actually revealed that they were having the best sex of their lives at midlife and beyond.

Not so different

According to this study, most older partnered adults have sex about as often as their younger counterparts. They value their sexuality as important to them as younger people do for themselves. Of course some older folks experience problems with desire, arousal, orgasm, and/or sexual pain; some older men struggle with erectile difficulties. So do younger people, often with a similar degree of frequency. The difference is that those over 60 don’t let these realities prevent them from having vibrant sex lives.

Secrets to sexy ageing

Unlearning: Most of us have learned that sex is about intercourse in a heterosexual monogamous relationship. Sexually satisfied older adults have challenged this narrow definition to broaden their options and experiences. If erections do not happen as expected and/ or vaginas don’t lubricate or enjoy stimulation as desired, and or bodies don’t move as freely as when younger, sex is not lost. Many older adults adjust to these realities by focusing less on intercourse than other sexual activities, thus reducing the requirement of an erection for pleasure and satisfaction.

Flexibility and openness: What older folks lack in physical flexibility they make up for in mental flexibility, which can produce a stronger impact. The people in the study recognized the need for flexibility over the lifespan of their relationships. They recognized that changes were inevitable over time, regardless of age. Changes of ageing, like all changes, can produce anxiety. Rather than avoiding or minimizing the anxiety, the people in this study learned to acknowledge their anxiety and welcomed the opportunities to take some risks in (re)-discovering themselves and their partners through intimacy and truth. In fact, necessity is the mother of invention. When the regular “scripts” no longer work, creative older adults can adjust themselves and their activities to create sexual scenarios that work for them. And rather than producing less satisfaction, these adjustments can actually produce greater satisfaction. Of course these adjustments require efforts of self-reflection, communication and pushing through stereotypes and low expectations. Yet for people of all ages, satisfying sex does not just “happen” effortlessly beyond the first couple of years or even ever. Great sex takes work, but the rewards can be profound.

Intention: Most people in the study spoke of setting intentions on learning better sex skills of pleasure and communication through resources such as books and workshops as well as simple experimentation. They were open to new ideas and options for pleasure. They claimed that their maturity and depth of connection over many years provided them with more openness and experience and confidence with which to explore. They prioritized their sexual lives and decided to make the most of it.

Awareness and mindfulness: Another important element for great sex among this population (and others) is awareness of oneself and one’s partner. This awareness requires a presence in the moment to what is happening. Rather than expecting each erotic experience to be the same, they were present to each other in the moment, working with the reality of what was actually happening rather than what “should” happen, what used to happen or what they wanted to happen. Being open to new realities enables us to embrace a variety of situations and outcomes, since sex does not always turn out the way we envision. This is not necessarily a bad thing: it is all in the awareness and flexibility of the moment.

Common values, maturity and trust: Of course a key to the success of relationships in general includes the above aspects. In addition, common values around sex as well as life in general are important. And it is integral that partners trust and value each other with a maturity that sees the whole picture with love and humility. These aspects also contribute to a vibrant sex life. Realistic expectations of change and possibility with a mature outlook are important contributors to a fulfilling sex life of pleasure and possibility.

Great sex at any age

What this study teaches us is that great sex is not limited by age or ability or number of sexual partners. It is more about maturity in the relationship; unlearning unhelpful and negative messages we all have gleaned from parents, peers and society. There is no reason to resign oneself to an unsatisfying sex life in later life and no need to wait until over 60 to have the best sexual experiences of one’s life. The options are available anytime for those who intentionally choose to create a vibrant and exciting sex life.

Carlyle Jansen is the founder of Good For Her, a sexuality shop and workshop centre in Toronto. If you have questions or comments, email carlyle@goodforher.com or go online to goodforher.com