Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

January 1, 2012

USA: Frank talk about sex and seniors

STATEN ISLAND, New York / / January 1, 2012

As We Are
By Bea Victor

In November of 1987, I wrote a column headlined: “The secret’s finally out: Sex does not end at 60.” 

Checking my computer the other day, I noted that there are endless references to that same subject, indicating many more studies that have been done. So I will repeat that column for the newer readers. 

“Do you think an article about sexuality in older people would be interesting?” I asked my friend. 

“Oh boy,” she responded. “I would stay away from that topic.” 

“Why?” I wanted to know. 

I was not planning to describe the sexual act, although I don’t know why even that would be inappropriate. 

Goodness knows, sexual activity of young people has been described openly in magazines and displayed with more and more explicitness in our movies and on television. 


I simply want to share some of the information that has become available to me. 

I am intrigued, that in this age of sexual frankness, where the condom is part of everyday conversation, where advertisements are visible and vocal about douches, deodorant, underclothing and mouthwash, where some of the best selling novels are so explicit it’s amazing the books don’t come with asbestos gloves, where single parenthood is acceptable and where “living together” holds no stigma, that a discussion of sexuality in the older person should be carefully considered for fear of offending. 

For some years now, older single persons have been getting together with or without marriage to satisfy financial and emotional needs, including sex. 

If you are a television buff, as I am, perhaps you have become aware of the increased focus on sexuality in programs involving older characters. 

In the past, any sign of sexuality concerning the elderly on television was usually a medium for ridicule. 

The image was one of the “dirty old man” and the undesirable and non-sexual older woman. 

Now we are shown a widower attracted to women, older men marrying young women, senior ladies pining and vying for men and some very tender love scenes between older men and women. 

It appears that it is a myth that sex automatically ends at some magical age like 60, or with the death of a spouse. 

This may come as a shock to some who believe that older people do not or should not desire sex. 


What appears to be nearer to the truth is that age has nothing to do with the needs all humans have — for warmth, affection, love and the human touch. (Have you hugged your wife or husband lately?) 

Much has been written about the sexual revolution, starting with Raymond Pearl in 1926, continuing throughout the years, including the Kinsey report indicating that older people are and have always been sexually active. 

For some people, “the fantasy of the sexual senior which they had when they were young became the blueprint for their own aging, a classical case of bewitchment by expectation” according to “A Good Age,” by Alex Comfort. 

Assuming the above, so what? Sure, there are those who really do not enjoy sex. They are happy to see an end to it. They do not want to be liberated now that it is the “in” thing for seniors. 

They resent those whom they feel are pressuring them to indulge. Thank goodness they have the privilege of choice and are respected for their point of view, says “To Your Good Health,” by Robert J. Skeist. 

Others, however, remind one of what the sculptor Rodin said: “I did not know that I could scorn women at 20 and be charmed by them at 70.” 

Seniors are simply continuing a healthy relationship in which sex plays an important part in the expression of affection and communication. They say it helps them feel good, alive, desirable and worthy. 

Dr. Domeena Renshaw of Loyola University Sexual Dysfunction Clinic says, “Sex is our body’s natural tranquilizer. It releases tension and helps relieve frustration, hostility and depression.” 

Some clinicians note that the majority of people who cease sexual activity are women. The reason usually is widowhood. 

Many writers agree, however, that the pain and difficulty of losing a husband need not prevent a woman from finding sexual satisfaction. 

Their recommendations include not only remarriage, but affairs with older or younger men, loving relationships with women and masturbation. 

(Suggestions which, if even thought about when I was younger, would make the heavens open and lightening strike.) 

The changes in sexual activity between aging partners can be compared to the changes in any physical involvement. There is a slowing down, not a cessation. 

Instead of the impetuosity of youth, there is more appreciation of touching, holding, kissing and “making love.” Perhaps this is something to be envied. 

© 2011
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