As we get older, it’s natural to wonder how life will change. Sure, we may not be able to run as fast as we used to or stay up as late as we did in our 20s. But one thing that we shouldn’t take as a given as we age is diminished desire for or enjoyment of sex.
It is a myth that sex is reserved for only the young. I can’t even tell you the number of depressing articles I’ve read that have explained how men reach their “prime” at 18. If this really was true, then for me at my age, the party’s long been over.
This fallacy came about way back in the 1950s when research established sexual peaks based on hormones. In men, testosterone levels topped out at around age 18, and in women, estrogen levels peaked in the mid- to late-20s. These hormonal milestones have been termed “genital prime” because they occur when our bodies respond most urgently to arousal.
But don’t confuse “genital prime” with “sexual prime.” They are not one in the same, and many, many people don’t hit their sexual prime until much later in life. In fact, great sex after 60 is not a myth! The sex may change as we get older, but it can and should be as fulfilling and rewarding (maybe even more!) as it was in our younger years.
It May Be Different…
It goes without saying that changes that occur in our bodies by our 50s, 60s, and beyond may make the mechanics of sex a little different than it was at 20 or 30.
In women, menopause can cause vaginal dryness or atrophy, both of which can lead to painful intercourse. Fortunately, over-the-counter lubricants are extremely effective at increasing moisture and making sex more pleasurable for both women and men.
In men, difficulty getting or maintaining an erection can become a more frequent complaint. But drugs for erectile dysfunction are easily accessible—and they really work! Even supplements such as the amino acids L-arginine and L-citrulline can help fight erectile problems by widening blood vessels in the penis and enhancing blood flow to the area.
Understanding, accepting, and working through these physical changes that come with age can help you maintain a fun and satisfying sex life.
…But Even Better!
One of the major misconceptions, especially among young folks, is that maintaining sex in a marriage is natural and, consequently, great sex should come without much effort. It just happens, right? Wrong! Sexual desire is extraordinarily complex, and like anything else it often gets much better with experience. The underpinning of passionate intimacy and sexual desire is the development and maturation of ourselves and our relationships. We must face our fears, attachments, control issues, and complex histories of past sexual experiences—and this growth often takes much of a lifetime. However, forging a passionate, intimate relationship begins when we take responsibility for our sexual and intimacy development.
Once you develop and mature in this area, you and your spouse can enter a capsule of sexual space, where time stops. This is a place where both of you can experience deep connection and transformational joy and love. And with increasing intimacy over time, this communion grows stronger, even outside the bedroom as you begin to relate to each other in new ways. You experience exciting, new adventures while laughing and playing together like carefree children running through a beautiful meadow. Evidence for this type of intimacy exists in the Bible, particularly in the book Song of Solomon. A baptism by erotic fire, the text drips with intimate sentiment right from the opening line:
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
for your love is more delightful than wine. (1:2)
I believe this is why, according to many surveys, older adults say that sex gets better with age, and men 50-69 appear to be the most confident age group when it comes to sexual performance.
And in an article on sexuality in older adults published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 54% of sexually active individuals (ages 75-85) reported having sex at least two to three times per month, and 23% reported having sex once a week or more.
So…for the 60+ crowd, the best could very well be yet to come!
According to sex researchers Masters and Johnson, the cardinal rule for preserving sexual vigor well into old age is to continue to have sex. Use it or lose it, if you will. Older women who are sexually active have less shrinkage of vaginal tissue, and sexually active men maintain higher testosterone levels than those who are sexually inactive.
Even so, it’s important to keep in mind that intimacy takes on many forms. Kissing, massaging, snuggling, and caressing are all forms of sexual expression that can be extremely pleasurable, even in the absence of intercourse.
Finally (I can’t stress this enough), always remember that a satisfying sex life starts with your state of mind. You are biologically programmed to desire closeness, sex, and intimacy, no matter what your age. So don’t ever feel that you’re “too old” to have urges and desires—enjoy them and act on them! And never stop being playful and flirtatious with your spouse. Every wink, grin, pinch, and squeeze makes for better sex, whether you’re 30, 60, 80, or 100.
Lindau ST, et al. A study of sexuality and health among older adults in the United States. N Eng J Med. 2007 Aug 23, 357(8): 762–74.