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Sex after 60?


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Horny old bro, dirty old men. These commonly used terms speak volumes about how society views older people who are interested in sex. Experts say such derogatory labels reflect a deep level of discomfort in our youth-oriented culture with the idea that seniors are sexually active. Sex is identified with reproduction, youthful attractiveness, and power -- and most young and even middle-aged people do not want to confront the inevitability of growing old. So sexual intimacy among older Americans is a subject that people don't talk about much. The silence, say experts, allows misconceptions to flourish -- including the widespread assumption that seniors lose interest in sex and are, or should be, asexual.

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6 women over 60 get real about sex

All those impulses and desires, for physical touch, for sex, for companionship, they're all the same. Research shows many women in their 60s, 70s and 80s have more time for sex than ever before. Credit: Getty images.

Maybe it's morphed into something a bit more subtle. Twice divorced and with her current partner for three years, Sarah says that while it's largely accepted that men will continue to have sexual feelings as they age, the same isn't true for older women.

She sees the myth about women losing their sexuality over the years as part of the invisibility that older women so often suffer. Sarah says that while a lot of older women don't like their bodies, and may struggle to see themselves as attractive, life in the retirement years, including your sex life, can be a time of great freedom.

Hormonal changes

New insight into a typically taboo subject has found that many women in their 60s, 70s and 80s have more, not less, sexual desire, know more about what they want in bed and are more confident about letting their partners know. Free from the exhaustion and constant interruptions of early family life, and past the looming fear of unwanted pregnancies, many women are newly enthusiastic about their sexual desires and have a far broader idea of what a happy and satisfying sex life might involve.

As the women who led the sexual revolution of the s and 70s hit older age, it seems many of them are once again tearing up social conventions and redefining what sexual desire means to them. Researchers on a t Victorian and New South Wales study, Sex, Desire and Pleasure: Considering the Experiences of Older Australian Womensay their findings have debunked many of the myths surrounding sex for older women.

The discussion

Dr Bianca Fileborn, of La Trobe University's Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Societysays far from women's level of sexual desire gradually fading away over time, many women's appetite for sex and intimacy increases in later years and that this is driven by factors other than ageing. For a lot of women their sexual desire was quite fluid across their lives.

So it wasn't that linear decline, it's something that ebbs and flows across the life span," she says. One of the women interviewed for the research, aged 57, described this stage as the best time in her life, sexually.

How your sex life changes after 60

I reckon it's probably the best time in your life actually because you're not going to have kids, you don't have to think about a house. Researchers also found that many older women have a diverse idea of what makes up satisfying sexual activity and were keen for their partners to broaden their repertoire.

Faced with health issues and diminished agility, many older women interviewed for the study talked about a desire to engage in sexual activities other than penetration. Researchers say health practitioners and others should be discussing alternative forms of pleasure for older women.

Research fellow Rachel Thorpe, also from La Trobe University, says a discussion about sex not being limited to penetration is something that should be encouraged throughout life, rather than waiting until both men and women were older and facing health challenges. One woman interviewed for the study complained that after her husband had undergone prostate surgery and could not maintain an erection, he refused to engage in any sexual activity, or to talk about other options.

Older women want sex more, not less

But Thorpe said many older women were confident about discussing their sexual desires and talking to their partners about trying new things and broadening their sexual repertoire. Another key finding from the study is that older women often have contradictory feelings about their own desirability. While many women interviewed feel that their bodies aren't attractive any more, and don't not see images of women like themselves held up as desirable by society, when they are engaged in sexual activity with a partner they feel desirable.

Thorpe says that for women in long-term relationships in particular, how their body appears isn't all that important in making them feel sexually desirable.

Older women more likely to lose interest in sex

Sarah echoed this feeling of enjoying an older body, even if society didn't seem to find it desirable. Sometimes I look at my arms and 'oh my gosh', but I've haven't had any discouragement or been made to feel by my partner that there's any problem. I've never had any criticism, I've been supported.

Researchers also say the study's findings have clear implications for doctors and other health professionals, who often do not consider the sexual needs of older people. For example, many doctors prescribe medications that may interfere with sexual function and don't discuss the effects of procedures, such as prostate surgery, on patients' sex lives. Researchers said there is an important role for health care providers to initiate conversations with older women about their sex lives and desires, and to provide information for those women who wish to receive it.

Sex and seniors: the year itch

One of the women interviewed for the study lamented the lack of books and other material on sexual satisfaction for older women. Issues that arise for older people. It doesn't exist. The study raises many of the issues that will increasingly be faced by an ageing society, with people living, and enjoying good health, for longer. For example, researchers say information on general sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases often ignores older people, forgetting they may still be sexually active. Sue Hendy, chief executive of the Council on the Ageingsays that sexuality in older age has clear implications for residential care, where facilities often ignored the fact that many older people still have sexual needs and desires.

It's linked to ageism and our perception of ageing. Hendy says the issue of older people's sexuality is a key aspect of the problem of social isolation.

Guide to sex after 60

It's not taken seriously," she says. Older women want sex more, not less.

Please try again later. The Sydney Morning Herald. By Clare Kermond February 25, — Save Log inregister or subscribe to save articles for later. Normal text size Larger text size Very large text size.