Age and Your Sexuality

By: Good Vibrations

Can a person get too old for sex?

Older Couple

The capacity for pleasure and connection are part of most adults’ lives—or would be, if barriers were removed. I’ll never forget a woman I helped at Good Vibrations: in her late 70s, she bought her first vibrator, saying, “I just don’t want to die without knowing what an orgasm feels like.”

That sex has an expiration date is a common story. Past the age of procreation, some feel, sex is over. Beliefs about sex can be related to upbringing, even cultural differences. If partners have different beliefs about sex and desire, it sets up challenges. When we believe sex = intercourse, many older people back away out of fear or frustration. Lack of sex education--especially about arousal and bodily changes--discomfort talking about sex, even shame play a role.

Age can bring changes that alter our sex lives: getting and maintaining erections, arousal and lubrication; comfort, from physical positioning to penetration; body image concerns; many effects of illness. You may need to talk to your doctor, not just partners, about sexual issues, including STIs! (STI incidence in older populations is much higher than awareness.) And be alert to any anti-sexual effects of prescription meds.

Some older adults don’t have a partner, but even if they do, emotional aftereffects of infidelity or consent breaches point to a larger issue: relationship health. Long-term partners can cease being tuned in to each other. This is why it’s a bad idea to run in shaking your new Viagra bottle like a maraca--unless maracas have always been part of your sex life! Take a Tantra class together instead.

Finally, those with adult kids, who are mobility-restricted, or reside in an elder-care facility may run into other peoples’ opinions about sexuality and age, and must advocate for privacy.

Regain your not-just-for-the-young birthright by questioning your definitions about what sex is. Intimacy can mean so many things: emotional closeness and connection; touch and sensation (including vibration); erotic fantasy, arousal and orgasm. You can experience these partnered or solo. Masturbation brings pleasure, self-comfort and “use it or lose it” self-care. You can use lubricated hands, genital pressure, adult toys—sexual stimulation does not require penetration. Menopause can alter the vagina; some explore dilation if they haven’t had penetrative sex lately, or after vaginoplasty, hysterectomy, or cancer treatments. Start small, with much lubrication; add arousal via fantasy or touch; add size gradually. Girth is a bigger issue than length, generally.

Many—especially women--have never made a habit of telling their partners what they like, want, don’t want. Age is the perfect excuse to do it, though. Why? Because our bodies are all changing at this time of life. Whatever might have worked before might not work now: a wonderful invitation to communicate, inform, and explore.

-Carol Queen, PhD—Good Vibrations Staff Sexologist

Senior Sex