When are you too old for sex? Is there a time when a couple needs to settle for a “just friends” relationship, and give up the expectation of physical intimacy and eroticism?
There’s no doubt that people’s bodies change as they age. After menopause, the dropping estrogen levels in women cause thinning of the vaginal tissues and reduced lubrication, making intercourse painful for many. Although men don’t experience a similar “andropause,” their testosterone levels steadily decrease as they age. This can result in lower libido and less reliable erections. In addition, aging sometimes brings on illnesses that interfere with interest and enjoyment in sex.
In a culture that idealizes the bikini-model body, those overall physical changes that come with aging — the sagging, bagging, wrinkling and loss of youthful firmness — can also lead many people, women in particular, to feel that they just aren’t attractive and sexy anymore.
Yet, in spite of everything, many couples continue to enjoy fulfilling sexual relationships into their 60s, 70s and beyond. A recent survey found that sexually active couples in their 70s reported having a more satisfying sexual relationship now than they did when they were in their 40s. Clearly, these folks have found a key to sexual happiness.
What’s their secret?
First, they have given up the “performance model” of sex, which puts the emphasis on erections and orgasms. Instead, they focus on sex as an opportunity for closeness and mutual pleasure, where any encounter is a success, regardless of how it ends. They communicate their needs, and aren’t reluctant to use aids for sexual enjoyment, whether it is “the little blue pill,” vibrators, lubricants or support pillows.
Finally, they accept themselves for who they are, and accept their bodies as lovable and sexual, regardless of how far from ideal they may be. All in all, that’s a pretty healthy formula for anyone who wants to enjoy a long-term sexual relationship — at any age.
Elaine Wilco is a Licensed Professional Counselor with over 20 years of experience. She maintains a private practice in Alpharetta focused on helping those with intimacy issues. Follow her at facebook.com/IntimacyAtlanta.