15 October 2009

Older doesn't mean colder

These days, more and more older women are admitting that they are sexually active – and proud of it!


Crosswords may interest them more than facebook (or maybe not!), but this doesn't mean that older women should hide themselves behind lace curtains. These days, more and more older women are admitting that they are sexually active – and proud of it!

Gone are the days when older women could be "put back on the shelf" with their knitting needles, reading glasses, cooksister recipes and a tag that read: expiry date has been reached. These days, many older women are setting an example for their daughters and granddaughters. They are looking after their health, exercising, keeping up with the latest trends and even running a half-marathon, or two! And it isn’t going too badly in the bedroom either!

A Swedish study has shown that people in the early 70s are enjoying and having more sex than their contemporaries did 30 or 40 years ago. In the article "Older women talk about sex" (, Beverly Johnson writes that as an Assistant Professor in nursing at the University of Vermont, she asked women 50 years and older to take part in an anonymous study about adult women and sexuality.

Generally, the woman described themselves as knowledgeable and liberal about their own sexuality. Altogether, 85% of the adults questioned admitted to practising their sexual interests and activities until very late in their lives, provided that their health was good. Altogether, 90% said they believe that sex is not only for young people – and that sexuality lasts throughout one's life. Two-thirds of the women said that they are still interested in sexual intercourse, and only 35% reported that this interest has decreased with age! Not bad, hey?

Sexologist Elmari Craig and Biblical expert Hennie Stander write in their book A-Z van Sex that certain bodily changes and issues that are paired with ageing may influence matters in the bedroom.

“The arousal phase will last longer and more stimulation may be necessary. Woman above the age of 50 may need additional lubrication – providing the perfect opportunity to take full advantage of oral sex. The plateau phase which leads to orgasm lasts longer in older people. Because sensation may not be as intense as before, sex may may last longer. The couple are therefore able to spend more time enjoying the journey together. Orgasms may not be as intense as before, and older men may need longer to obtain an erection again. Despite all of these changes, though, sex can still be an enjoyable and fulfilling experience.”

Not so supple
Marlene (56), an INTIMACY reader, agrees with the fact that there is absolutely nothing wrong with older women's libidos – and if there is a "cooling down" of some sort, it is usually on the men’s side, she says.

“The fact that older women still enjoy sex is completely true!” she laughs. “Though they may not be as supple as they used to.”

She reads our magazine regularly, and was fascinated by the article on fruit in bed! “Immediately I thought ‘what if we stain the bedlinen?’ Then I contemplated following the routine while on the carpet, but my body would never allow it!’” she giggles. “And the article about striptease... I wanted to, but I can’t even touch my toes!”

Sex is all about fantasy, says Marlene. “At our age, you know each other's bodies inside out. Whether you have a tan or not doesn't matter any more – sex reaches much deeper than just a moment of pleasure. I like to use the word ‘cherish’. I often walk through the shops during the day and think: ‘I'm not so pretty any more, I have wrinkles’... but when the two of us are together, I feel like a young woman again because we cherish each other. To me, my husband is the most wonderful man in the world - belly, moles, wrinkles and all – it doesn't matter. This isn't what I see – I see the man who loves me.”

Marlene believes that it is very freeing that women of her age don't have to worry about appearing forward if they take the initiative in bed. “You also don't need to talk any more about what your mate enjoys or finds pleasurable. You feel it in your very fibre...” Marlene believes that all older married couples (she and her husband have been married for 30 years) communicate almost telepathically in the bedroom – something that comes with many years of being together.

She laughs when we speak about the "positions of the month", and says that INTIMACY should include a position for older couples every now and then. “But remember, it isn’t just hips, knees and the back we’ve got to watch – it is also shoulders and elbows! I think many times couples decide: ‘let's switch over to oral sex, because that involves the least joints!’ Generally though, we can do just about everything a younger couple would – but just a little slower! And another thing... we can think a lot better than they can. At our age, thoughts help a lot. If you think, along with the little bits that you can do, you can be just as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as anyone!”

Remember though, that even if you don't feel like the social butterfly you were when you were young, your body still has mileage left, and more character than a younger woman who can’t even exploit the benefits of pensioner’s discount! Don't scale down...rather make a few adjustments to your sex life to ensure that you will be able to reap the fruit of your efforts for years to come:

  • Speak to your mate and accept ageing as part of your life. This doesn't only count for older woman – honest communication is very necessary for good sex. Now, more than ever, it is important to iron out problems and to seek creative solutions.
  • Focus on positive thoughts. Remind yourself often about all the benefits of getting older. Discover the things that you enjoy doing in life, and spend more time doing these.
  • Decide that you will remain sensually and sexually active. Do sensual things together like bathing, sharing erotic thoughts or giving each other compliments. You have time to experiment – use it!
  • Use lubricant. Remember, the older you get, the more your natural lubrication decreases. This can easily be overcome through the use of a water-based lubricant.
  • Experiment with positions and time. You may experience pain caused by arthritis or other conditions that could affect your sex life. Try different positions – and remember that arthritis and other pain may be less severe at certain times of the day. Try to have sex when your pain is at its least.
  • Confront erectile dysfunction. If this happens to your mate, help him to work through it. This doesn't have to be the end of your sex life – certain lifestyle changes and medication can do wonders.
  • Feel pretty. This is sometimes difficult when you're confronted with images of youthful, pretty women. As you get older, you may feel less sexually attractive and this can influence your libido. Don't let yourself be influenced by these messages. Yes, your body does change as you get older, but this doesn't have an effect on your worth or your desirability.
  • Look after your health. Remember that health problems can interfere with sexual enjoyment. If you have a health problem, make sure that you keep it under control. Follow doctor's advice and listen if you need to lose weight, exercise, or eat more healthily.
  • Don't allow operations steal your sex life. You may have undergone a mastectomy, hysterectomy or similar operation which involves your sexual or reproductive organs. This can affect your self-worth quite dramatically. Remember that these operations have nothing to do with your ability to have sex. Speak openly about your feelings around this to your husband.
  • Talk to your doctor about problems that you may have in your sex life. Sometimes, there are simple adjustments that you can make, like taking your medication at a different time in the day, which can make a dramatic difference to your life.
  • Men have a lower life expectancy than woman, and that means that many older woman are left widowed. Sex and orgasms are good for your body and your emotions. Women shouldn't feel guilty about masturbation – and vibrators are handy instruments!

    *Additional source:

    (This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in INTIMACY, October 2009)


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Live healthier

Exercise benefits for seniors »

Working out in the concrete jungle Even a little exercise may help prevent dementia Here’s an unexpected way to boost your memory: running

Seniors who exercise recover more quickly from injury or illness

When sedentary older adults got into an exercise routine, it curbed their risk of suffering a disabling injury or illness and helped them recover if anything did happen to them.