A recent survey challenged the myths about sex in later life with an audacious claim that not only does sex get better, but some women are more sexually satisfied at 80 than they were in their 50s.
But are we really to believe it? Here, two writers give their contrasting views on whether you’re ever too old to enjoy yourself in the bedroom...
Eyes closed and nestled tenderly against each other, the couple on the train appeared to be in a world of their own. From the slow, sensual way he stroked her hand to her contented smile, it was obvious they were not only very much in love but also enjoyed a healthy physical relationship, too. Yet this was not a pair of young lovebirds in their 20s but, I discovered, a couple in their 80s.
Does the thought of their obvious passion for each other make you feel uncomfortable? If it does, you wouldn’t be alone because there are many who find the idea of older people being intimate together distasteful. It would be easy to attribute this reaction to living in a world of ‘perfect’ airbrushed models and films that rarely depict sex unless it involves a nubile and beautiful young couple.
While cultural obsession with youth is a factor, it is more ingrained than that. The truth is, no generation likes to imagine their parents making love. It is built into us not to consider older people those over 60 as sexual beings. But I believe these attitudes need rethinking.
I am arguing for a new sexual revolution: one that respects and acknowledges the sexual needs of older people. Because what I found while researching my book Sex After Sixty was that there is no age limit to love, sex and desire even if we hide it after a certain age.
There are many reasons why intimacy in your 60s, 70s and 80s is something to be celebrated. It can play a key role in good physical and psychological health and sexual arousal causes the heart rate to climb in a similar way to gentle exercise, while close physical contact can lower blood pressure and enable people to cope better with stress. There is even a link between regular sex and a more robust immune system.
Yet there are good reasons for believing that your 60s and beyond can be your most satisfying years sexually. One woman I spoke to, Macha, is in her early 70s but has the glow and energy of someone decades younger.
She told me she believes you can only experience real sexual pleasure once you have turned 60 because this is when you no longer have anything to prove and are finally free to be yourself. Other couples find that with retirement and an empty nest comes the chance to relive their youth and enjoy a level of sensuality they might not have experienced when younger.
Research suggests that as women age they can enjoy more intense and satisfying orgasms. At the heart of this, I believe, is the way we define ‘making love’. Studies into sex and older people often seem to produce conflicting results. One survey of 800 women over 40 found that the oldest age group had the highest percentage of ‘sexual satisfaction’.
It is key that we reframe our understanding of a ‘good sex life’ after 60 so it is less about athletic performance and more to do with the mind. It is gentler and more sensual.
‘Darling,’ says a wife to her husband as they reel home after her 65th birthday party. ‘When we get back, let’s rush upstairs and make wild, passionate love!’ ‘Sorry, darling,’ groans the husband. ‘It’s one or the other, but I can’t do both.’ So goes the old joke. And let’s be honest: by the time we get to 70, most of us don’t mind that we can’t do either. But can we rest on our glory, our stair-rushing, passionate lovemaking days safely behind us?
The sex may occur less often but it is comforting, familiar. hat left me adjusting my reading glasses was the claim that women, in particular, find it easier to become aroused in their 80s than in their 60s. Know any frisky female octogenarians swinging from the chandeliers? Me neither. Most of us have enough trouble trying to remember why we came into the room, trying to get in and out of the bath and looking after the grandchildren, without having to worry about our sex lives.
Of course, some lucky people do continue to have great sex lives when they are older.
But most don’t, and it’s usually for one of two reasons. After the menopause, a woman may well suffer from physical conditions which can’t be cured with hormonal creams or hormone replacement therapy.
Likewise, a man may suffer from erectile dysfunction. Sometimes this can be corrected with Viagra. Not always. It is also because as you get older, you realize love is not just about sex.
Holding hands on a country walk and sharing the joy of seeing grandchildren grow up can also bring togetherness. Many of today’s elderly were once sexual trailblazers. So please don’t make us feel inadequate now we have finally called it a day.
© Daily Mail