There is mounting evidence to support the long-standing innuendos about sex: if you’re not staying sexually active after 50 (whether with a partner or alone) you may begin to experience diminished sexual drive and response. The good news is that women and men over 50 are generally healthier, more active, and more in tune with their physical, sexual and emotional needs than ever before. Just as there are women and men that are “old” at 50 and “young” at 80, the same applies to sexuality. According to Dr. Sheldon Marks (a urologist in Tucson, AZ and widely published and quoted as a leading men’s health expert) women and men that are sexually active in their 40s and 50s can reasonably expect to stay sexually active throughout their lives, barring any significant health changes such as cancer or diabetes. Dr. Marks adds, “it only makes sense to keep all your body parts working and functional. In fact, sex is good for your heart, your whole body muscle tone, keeps your hormones surging, and releases chemicals in the brain associated with a sense of well-being and satisfaction. In every way, sex truly is the “fountain of youth.”
Unlike the sexuality that most people experience in their 20s and into their 30s, which is fueled by lust and passion and supported by youthful physical stamina and hormones, the nature of sexual relationships change and evolve as we grow older and more experienced in relationships and is often necessitated by changes in stamina and erectile function (in men) and hormones (in women). Nonetheless, sex continues to be very important to women and men of all ages. According to a survey commissioned by Pfizer and completed in 2006 (The Global Better Sex Survey) 82% of women and men surveyed in the US strongly agreed that “sex is a necessary component of a fulfilling life.” And yet, of those surveyed, only 50% of the men and women said they were “very satisfied” with their sex life while another 33% responded that they were having “less than the right amount of sex.” Almost all of the respondents agreed that it is important to “please their partner during sex.” And 90% of the men said that “confidence in their sexual ability is critical to having a strong, loving relationship.
So how, exactly, do things change after 50? Well, for most men and women, the children have left home, or are well on their way, birth control is no longer an issue, and the manic career-building phases of their lives have transitioned into something a little more balanced. And, fortunately, in spite of physiological changes that 50+ men and women may be experiencing, our sexual needs and expectations have continued to evolve as well. Joan Price, author of Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex after Sixty, says that “many women discover that each decade [sex] gets better—as long as we’re open enough to keep learning, changing and communicating with our partners.”
Another sexuality researcher, Dr. Laura Carpenter (assistant professor of sociology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville) has conducted research that challenges the old stereotypes about sexual satisfaction. Her work shows that, for heterosexuals, there is improved balance between what midlife women and men look for in their sexual interactions. While women still value the emotional aspects of their sex lives, their sexual satisfaction was directly related to having orgasms and spending more than 15 minutes in sexual contact. On the other hand, men related having love in the relationship as contributing most to their sexual satisfaction.
So it appears that there are several important factors associated with a healthy, active sex life for women and men over 50:
- Communication between partners
A woman and a man must communicate openly and honestly about their sexual needs, likes, dislikes, concerns, fantasies, whatever is important to them. This is not a time to expect your partner to “anticipate how to please you” – speak up and both of you will reap the benefits of candor.
- Loving relationships
Women and men over 50, as a rule, have better sexual interactions within the context of a loving relationship.
- Healthy lifestyle
Living a healthy lifestyle has benefits in all areas of living. It helps prevent heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure; maintains healthy body systems; contributes to longevity; and helps to prevent and/or counterbalance some of the natural processes of an aging body, including erectile dysfunction, menopause, and decrease in stamina. A healthy, rested, well nourished body is far more receptive to sexual cues.
- Time and patience
Men and women over 50 prefer to fully experience their sexuality; it isn’t just about getting to the orgasm any more. In fact, the journey (foreplay) can be as rewarding as the destination. And, in taking time to explore and enjoy one another’s bodies with all of your senses, you can build to a level of intimacy and passion that is explosive.
We welcome any comments or questions you’d like to share with our readers…meanwhile read Sell by Date. Is Age Just a Number in this current issue.