“My body feels like an alien being,” you tell me. “I want my old self back!” We spent decades figuring out who we were sexually, what turned us on, what touch or rhythm brought us to orgasm, and how to please a partner. Now it feels like we have to learn this all over again.
Aging affects sex in a gazillion ways: physical comfort, emotional needs, body image, and what we need for sexual arousal and pleasure, to name a few. This is true whether we’re having sex with someone new, a reunited lover from our past, or a longtime partner. It’s not what we signed up for, but it’s what we get with aging.
We may need stronger or lighter stimulation now, a gentler or rougher touch, slower or faster rhythm, and lots more time. Sometimes we don’t even know what we need, and we mistakenly think that if sex as we knew it no longer works for us, we’re doomed to a sexless future. Not true! We just have to rediscover what turns us on now and makes our body respond. Think of it as a wonderful journey of discovery.
Instead of focusing on what doesn’t work, let’s focus on what does work to increase sexual pleasure, and make that special, such as:
- Plan sex for the time of day when you are most energetic and in the mood for sex. Enjoy a morning or afternoon delight. If energy is a problem, try resting or napping first.
- Have sex before a meal—not after one. When our diminished blood flow is working on digestion, there isn’t enough to arouse the genitals. You’ll have more energy and better arousal before eating.
- If a medical condition is making sex problematic, plan your sex dates for the times that your medication is working best to ease the condition while leaving you lively. Ask your doctor about the timing of your medications—is there a way to modify the schedule for better sexual response and comfort?
- Celebrate the deliciousness of long, slow arousal. Rather than wishing orgasm came faster, enjoy the slow-moving ride.
- Try new positions if a position you used to love is no longer comfortable. If one position is the best way for you to reach orgasm but you can’t stay in it comfortably for a long enough time, try starting in another position and finishing with your favorite.
- Whether you’re single or partnered, relish the capacity of your body to enjoy sensual pleasure and indulge yourself regularly on your own.
From Chapter 2, The Ultimate Guide to Sex after 50: How to Maintain – or Regain! – a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life by Joan Price
The Ultimate Guide to Sex after 50: How to Maintain – or Regain! – a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life offers helpful information and practical tips for enhancing or reviving your sexual pleasure after 50, 60, 70, and beyond. Chapters cover these topics:
- Busting the Myths about Sex and Aging
- What’s Happening to My Body?
- Getting Your Mojo Back
- Sex with Yourself and Toys
- Sex with a Longtime Partner
- Stretching Boundaries
- When Intimacy Ends
- You and Your Doctor
- When Sex Is Painful
- Cancer, Cancer Treatment, and Sex
- Heart, Brain, Joints, and Sex
- Sex without Erections
- Single After All These Years
- The New Rules of Dating
- Sex with a New Partner
- Safer Sex: Always
- Sexy Aging Going Forward
I invited my newsletter subscribers to tell me what they’ve learned about sex lately that has enhanced their sex life. The responses illustrate how far we’ve come in acknowledging that seniors are full human beings with sexual needs and desires, and how we are empowering ourselves to fulfill them.
Enjoy Sex Without Penetration
When penis-in-vagina (PIV) intercourse is no longer dependable or possible, it’s an opportunity to explore sex without penetration, which you may find gloriously satisfying. Here’s what readers said:
- “I’ve learned that sex without penetration provides me and my partner with at least as much core-shaking pleasure as does PIV. Both are very nice, but my notion of ‘real sex’ has broadened to center now on sex without penetration.”
- “My wife and I enjoyed a comfortable, mostly vanilla sex life for 45 years, and then it ceased after I lost the ability to provide a lasting erection. We accepted that as an inevitable, age-related thing and believed that sex without penile penetration was not complete. Research, including your blog and your books, opened my mind to the idea that sexual gratification for older folks was healthy, desirable, and neither inappropriate nor impossible without an erection.”
- “You may have issues maintaining an erection hard enough for sustained penetration. PIV sex is not the only way to have sex. You can have extraordinary pleasure and orgasms even with a soft penis.”
- “At 65, I’ve learned a more expansive idea of sex, one that isn’t so genitally focused. Every part of my body can be an erogenous zone. My partner and I enjoy hours of pleasuring each other, engaging in ‘outercourse’: manual, oral, and anal stimulation. We may have a single orgasm and continue pleasuring. We might enjoy several orgasms, or one extended orgasm. We have more of a sense of play and exploration.”
(For more about non-PIV sex, view “Great Sex Without Penetration,” my most popular webinar.)
Yes, aging brings obstacles to good sex. That’s no reason to give up. Instead, explore solutions, as these readers did:
- “I honestly didn’t know our sex drives would slow down. Nobody tells you that a strong libido has a shelf life. Realizing that the days of spontaneous combustion were over for both of us, I felt like I’d been ripped off by life. With time, laughter, tears, and a lot of talking and thinking — plus a vibrator, erotica, and soft porn — my husband and I created a place where sex is a wonderful mini-vacation where we give and receive pleasure. It’s no longer my obsession, but it’s also not an afterthought.”
- “What to do when you realize that the only sex you know and have enjoyed for 45 years won’t work anymore? My wife has lichen sclerosus of the vulva. We can’t have penetrative sex anymore because she is so sensitive. We had to completely relearn how to have sex, first conquering our belief that sex other than penetrative missionary sex was shameful or sinful. We have learned that we can continue to be intimate and enjoy sex together.”
- “Because I couldn’t orgasm with intercourse and sometimes I had to finish myself off alone, after 20 minutes of my husband doing everything in his power to make me come, I thought our sex life was deficient and substandard. Joan’s writing truly helped me. To read an expert telling me that masturbation was real sex; oral sex was real sex; sex with sex toys to enable us to orgasm was real sex? I realized I was having quite a bit of real sex, and I didn’t recognize it. Two people who love the hell out of each other and fit together like puzzle pieces thinking that they’re defective because their sex life didn’t fit the standard definition? Your words freed me from feeling inadequate, broken, and damaged.”
Bring Back the Spice
If you’re in a long-term relationship that has lost its excitement, these readers share what works for them:
- “We find planned, weekly date-night encounters far more enjoyable than spontaneous episodes, because planning a scene enhances anticipation. It’s a form of extended foreplay. We are consistently ready for sex well before the next date-night, but we deny ourselves, heightening the desire to extreme levels for days.”
- “I’m 80, and my mind is my biggest turn on. I am no longer afraid to share my fantasies with my partner. It is a delight not to be ashamed of these wonderful and imaginative ideas where I get to determine what I experience in my mind while making love with my partner.”
- “After 33 years of marriage, I realize that both partners need to choose to keep their relationship spicy and active. Both must be honest and frank about their desires. Don’t be freaked out if you two disagree on what you’d like to do. Just treat it like every other issue you’ve disagreed on through the years: listen, suggest, compromise, and give it time.”
Explore New Kinds of Relationships
We were brought up to value only a lifelong, monogamous relationship. Sometimes that works for us; often it doesn’t. It’s never too late to explore a new relationship — or a new kind of relationship:
- “After much reading and heart-to-heart conversations with my more experienced lover, I’ve embraced consensual nonmonogamy at age 74 as an honest and happy-making way of being in a primary relationship. It allows each of us to celebrate both our independence and our connection based upon a solid foundation of frank, open communication. I have the freedom (should I so choose) to pursue other relationships without jeopardizing my highly valued primary tie. And, she likewise, has that freedom. Never taking my partner for granted adds a special sexy frisson to our connection.”
- “I’m 72. After my dear heart passed away and I hadn’t had sex for 5 years, I reconnected with my boyfriend from 43 years ago. Our relationship the first time around had been sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Now we’re in sync with getting up in the middle of the night to pee! We’re in a long-distance relationship for now, with sex being a big part of our daily conversations.”
- “After 26 years of an unfulfilling sex life that lasted minutes at best, I was alone and lonely. At 71, I met someone new. We can barely keep our hands off each other, like in the scene from West Side Story where everyone disappears into the scenery. We’re both widowed and realize that tomorrow is promised to no one. Whether or not it lasts, I plan to suck every bit of life and juice from this new relationship. I am burning daylight here.”
Sex Keeps Getting Better
Many readers wanted to share why sex at our age is better than ever:
- “We have a whole new attitude towards sex, accepting that whatever provides immediate pleasure also benefits our long-term health and relationship. We are more respectful of each other and display a high level of intimacy outside the bedroom as well as in. We are more comfortable with openly discussing sex than we ever were.”
- “Sex is better now than in our younger days because the pace and respectful desire to please each other is more refined than the more urgent hormone-driven copulations in the past.”
- “As I age, I am more sexually comfortable, adventurous and voracious. As a young woman, I was painfully shy, inhibited, and sure I wasn’t attractive. Now I feel strong, capable, sexy, attractive and free to express myself sexually and sensually.”
- “I love an older woman’s body. It’s about how she feels about herself, how much she gives herself up to pleasure and takes joy in her body. In the past decade, I’ve had partners dealing with wrinkles, stretch marks, cellulite, diabetes, heart conditions, Bell’s Palsy, IBS, and none of it has been an impediment to loving pleasure and desire.”
- “I’m much more excited about exploring than I ever was in my younger days. Touch is an integral part of the experience for me and I teach my partner how and where to touch me, and I do the same for him. I have fewer inhibitions and I’m focused on enjoying all the sensations.”
- “Sex in my 70s is relaxed, playful, fun, unhurried, experimental, and made wonderful by open, easy, frank communication with my partner about what we each do and don’t like. We feel closeness and trust, and our orgasms are happily extended as we pleasure one another without stress or anxiety or rush. Now is the best age in my entire life for uncomplicated, completely happy, and totally delightful sex!”
- “My lover (64) and I (88) just celebrated our 5th anniversary with a weekend frankly devoted to ‘sex at our age’ and loving it. It was a soul-blending celebration. Most important to us are (1) learning to listen before responding; (2) responding freely, not out of earlier patterns, but aware of the new definitions and opportunities for growth; (3) being willing to risk, try the new, re-invent. Of course, I’m vulnerable and have shed tears often. But, ah, the growth —beyond imagination.”
Some take-away tips from these reader experiences
- A sexual problem is a challenge, not a defeat. It’s an opportunity to learn and to explore.
- Expand your notion of what kind of sex is satisfying to you.
- Get creative. Try new things.
- Communicate with your partner about what you’d like to try.
- Treasure the pleasure!
This article was first published as “Sex at our Age: How far we’ve come” at SeniorPlanet.org, May 21, 2018.
Want to make some changes in your sex life?
These New Year’s Resolutions will make a big difference,
and they’re easy and fun to put into action.
Redefine Sex. The ways you used to have sex are no longer possible or pleasurable now? Don’t let that close off your sexual expression. Instead, expand your definition of sex to include all the activities that arouse you and bring you sexual pleasure now, partnered or solo. Embracing a new definition of sex expands your possibilities for pleasure. Read this account of Shamus MacDuff’s experience and view my most popular webinar, “Great Sex Without Penetration.”
Track the Tingle. For quicker, easier, and more satisfying arousal, figure out what time of day you feel most sexually responsive. When you feel the “tingle” – that quiver of erotic possibility – set aside time to indulge yourself sexually or schedule that time on your next free day.
Use High Quality Lubricant. A lubricant that keeps you moist and slick will increase comfort and intensify your pleasure. Use lube liberally both solo and with a partner, and reapply frequently. See my “Senior’s Guide to Lubrication” for how to choose your lube. Purchase from one of the vetted retailers you’ll find advertising on my blog, not the drugstore brands.
Self-Pleasure Frequently. Solo sex is real sex, and it’s good for your general health, your sexual health and your sense of well-being. Give yourself sexual pleasure, whether you’re in a relationship or not. You’re celebrating your body’s ability to give you exquisite pleasure.
Enjoy Sex Toys. Our hormonally challenged bodies may need extra help to reach orgasm. A well-chosen, well-placed vibrator can be the difference between orgasm and no orgasm. This blog is full of vibrator reviews from a senior perspective. View my “Sex Toys for Seniors” webinar for more. Read the many sex toy reviews on this blog.
Celebrate Responsive Desire. This is for you if you enjoy sex when you do it, but you rarely feel desire in advance. You’re experiencing “responsive desire”: your desire follows sensations of pleasure and physiological arousal instead of preceding it. So get started, open yourself to pleasure and stimulation, and your desire will kick in.
Exercise Before Sex. Increasing your blood flow with physical activity isn’t only good for the heart and muscles — it’s also good for sexual function and pleasure. One of the best things we can do to speed up arousal and orgasm is regular exercise, especially before sex. Jumpstart your exercise program with “fitness minutes” from The Anytime, Anywhere Exercise Book.
Sex Before Food. Eating before sex sends the blood flow to your digestive system instead of your genitals. Have sex first, then eat. Sexual arousal will be easier, orgasms will be more reliable, and you will relish that meal afterward.
Indulge Your Erotic Imagination. Fantasize, read erotica, view films that turn you on. Don’t judge yourself for the kinds of images, fantasies, or private thoughts that get you revved up. Your brain is your most powerful sex organ. For more about fantasies, read Justin Lehmiller’s book, Tell Me What You Want. For an anthology of erotica by authors over 50 featuring steamy characters over 50, read Ageless Erotica!
Use Your Words. Learning to talk about sex is the key to getting what you want. A long-term partner is likely to continue doing what used to work, even if it doesn’t work for you now, unless you redirect the action. A new partner is wants to know how to please you. Speak up. Do your partner the favor of revealing what turns you on and what you’re in the mood for.
Have Sex More Often. Difficulty with arousal and orgasm is a good reason to have more sex, not less. The penis and the clitoris require blood flow for engorgement. The more you engage in stimulation – partnered or solo — the more easily the blood flows to the genitals.
Use Safer Sex. If you’re sexual with new partners, use barrier protection. Many people with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) either don’t know or don’t tell. Use barrier protection (condoms for intercourse and fellatio, dental dams for cunnilingus) every time. Learn more from my entertaining free video, “Safer Sex for Seniors with Joan Price.”
Schedule Weekly Orgasms. If we waited until sex happened spontaneously, we might never have another orgasm. Schedule sex at least weekly, partnered or solo. The sexy anticipation –mental foreplay! — makes it even hotter when it happens.
Enlist Help. If you’re having sexual problems in your relationship, see a sex therapist (find one in your location) or a sex-savvy counselor. Therapy will help you identify the underlying issues, teach you how to communicate more effectively, and give you new strategies.
Talk to Your Doctor. Difficulty with arousal, erections, orgasm, or pain requires medical attention. If your doctor is dismissive or unable to help, ask for a referral to someone who is more knowledgeable about your concern and more accepting of you as a sexual being.
Learn, Learn, Learn. Read the books and websites that offer reliable information about sex and aging. Take online classes and webinars. For an educational and explicit treat, watch the award-winning “jessica drake’s Guide to Wicked Sex: Senior Sex,” which I co-created.
Which of these are you already doing?
Which ones will you put into action this year? Leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.
(This article first appeared in a slightly different form in my Senior Planet column, Jan. 8, 2018.)
by Shamus MacDuff
Sunlight streams through the window by her bed,
And shimmers off her hummingbird feeder just outside.
Clad only in pearl necklaces, she emerges from the shower
With a welcoming smile that beckons me join her in bed.
Feeling both the sun’s warmth and hers, I quickly comply.
My thoughtful lover has assembled sex toys and lube,
As we lie down together, kissing, stroking, and giggling.
Soothing sunlight dapples our nipples and softens our
Old people wrinkles and blemishes as we cling together.
We are again young in the sun, two bodies eager for touch.
Our preference is taking turns pleasuring one another,
With full focus first on one person, and then on the other.
Pleasuring and being pleasured in full sunshine is a treat
In that beautiful wood-paneled bedroom where we meet.
Slowly, gently, lovingly, we exchange climaxes in the sun.
Filled with afterglow, when spooning, we catch movement
Out the window as an iridescent hummingbird hovers.
While we hug and talk we count the hummers’ visits,
Thrilling over how they glisten in the sun’s afternoon rays.
Their allure accentuates the radiance of our own sunny love.
— Shamus MacDuff, 1/23/21