• Jennifer Barnick

Sex Over 65 (And How All of Us Can Learn from It)

Older people in love

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

I will start out saying I am not over 65; however, I hope that one day I will be, and sex in old age is something I often think about as sex for me is something that is wonderful and fun and profound and continues to show in scientific research—healthy. “It naturally releases human growth hormone, which helps keep skin elastic, with few wrinkles. It improves mood with endorphins and oxytocin. It increases prolactin, which in turn helps sleep.” (H. Steven Moffic, October 6, 2014, Over65.hastingscenter.org) Better skin? Increased happiness? Better sleep? There are a lot of reasons to invest a little time and thought into one’s sex life. Consequently, I do not think I am alone when I say that I am sometimes curious and sometimes nervous regarding what is going to happen to my partner and me as we cruise into our 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s (possibly 90’s) in the bedroom department. What I found after my research was shocking. Not only could I look forward to happy times of sex throughout my life, but there were also sexual experiences up ahead that might prove radically superior. I think many of us, while in the prime of our lives, find that often the stress of work, kids, and having a busy social life can really take a bite out of our sex lives. Whereas for the elderly, often their spouse or partner becomes their main source of social interaction as their children are grown, they are retired, and their social life slows due to the passing of friends and loss of social connections derived from work or their children. And with that increased togetherness comes increased intimacy and (you guessed it) for many, an increasingly enjoyable sex life.

For years it was just a given in the social and medical community that as people age their sex life disappears. For men, there is a decrease in libido and often erectile dysfunction, and for women, there is a thinning of the vaginal wall, dryness, and diminished libido. However, now that the Baby Boomers are aging and being more candid about their sex lives and longer-term studies are starting to be published, nothing could be further from the truth—at least when it comes to the elderly and having active, happy sex lives. “But a comprehensive and national study of sexuality and health among older adults shows that most people want and need sex well past 60, and continue to have it often—even well into their 80’s.” (5 Things Nobody Tells You About Sex after 60, Rachel Reiff Ellis, March 15, 2017, prevention.com) Now, for some people, penetrative sex will continue throughout their lives. However, for the majority, that kind of sex will disappear and something coined ‘outercourse’ or ‘outer sex’ will come into play. Outercourse is sex that does not involve penetration; however, by all reports it not only is pleasurable, but it has also been consistently reported by seniors as passionate, and deeply satisfying. In this really great article in psychology today.com, long time sex writer Michael Castleman M.A. (who is in his 70’s) opens up about his initial struggle with sex over 65, and then his realization that he and his wife (who found penetrative sex post menopause to be very painful) of 47 years could have an extremely pleasurable and intimate sex life. “Most men over 65 bid-farewell to erections and penis-in-vagina intercourse and opt for other pleasures; mutual genital hand massage, oral sex, and toys.” In his article, he gets real regarding the truth behind ED drugs such as Viagra (they are not very effective for most men over 65), and this curious fact (which should put a lot of gentlemen’s mind at ease): “Men don’t need erections to enjoy great sex and marvelous orgasms.” He writes that semi-erect, even flaccid penises, with the right patience and handling, can reach full climax.

There are some important things to consider if you are currently under 65 or if you are over 65 that you might want to address immediately. First, understand the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. “Exercise and good nutrition can help a great deal, both physically and emotionally, to help older adults feel vigorous, healthy, and sexually interested.” (5 Things Nobody Tells You About Sex After 60, Rachel Reiff Ellis, March 15, 2017, prevention.com) Secondly, sorry if you seriously like to party—in nearly every article, one of the big sex killers is alcohol (keep it under two a day—or quit altogether). Lastly, an issue for people over 65 is the importance of having a partner. If you are currently in your prime and are not in a committed relationship, I would suggest you invest some time in that area as the studies are pretty clear regarding old age and having a life partner. “People that have sex live longer. Married people live longer. People need people. The more intimate the connection, the more powerful the effects.” (Sex and Seniors: The 70-Year Itch, Loren Stein M.A., consumer.healthday.com) This is not to say that single seniors are without hope—but it is to say that if you are in your prime understand the importance of finding a mate—it will be extremely needful in your old age. And, if you are currently a senior who is single, definitely get out there and date. There are a lot of great dating sites and community events that can help you in the dating department.

After my research, three things really struck me and not only put me at ease regarding my sex life in my golden years but also put a spotlight on the importance of my sex life now and ways I could improve it. One is the practice of outercourse, as it seemed to say a lot about the power of touch and intimacy and enjoying union over traditional penetrative sex. Secondly, in the article Sex and Seniors: The 70-Year Itch, there was a finding that surprised me. It was that people find their mates more physically attractive over time. I always wondered how I would feel about sex with an old body—both my own and my partner’s. I wondered if it would be just as appealing and attractive and as it turns out—yes, very, particularly for long-term partners. The third thing that struck me was the power of intimacy—even in the face of extreme bodily hindrances that can arise in old age—loving couples found that even the most basic of touching can become the most intense sex of their lives. In a nytimes.com article by Jan Hoffman: Married Sex Gets Better in the Golden Years, February 23, 2015, a widow in her 80’s touchingly talks about the sex life between her and her departed husband. She explained that young people would never believe that holding hands could replace or be viewed as sex but she argued that not only was it sex—it was the very best sex she had ever had. “‘There’s an intimacy that comes later that is staggeringly wonderful,’ she said. ‘You can hold hands with this person you love and adore, and somehow its just as passionate as having sex at an earlier age.’”

Jennifer Barnick is a painter and writer. She studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. She founded Twenty-two Twenty-eight. “One of the most exciting aspects of Twenty-two Twenty-eight is building a channel for artists and writers to share their work with the world.” You can follow Jennifer on her Instagram here.

Check out Jennifer’s book. You can read the first short story for free on Amazon here.