SEX AT MIDLIFE And Beyond…

The greatest fear most people harbour is that of aging. This is not only because of the physical changes age brings along, but also the fear of losing our sexual prowess. There is no point in denying that sex, like everything else in us, changes as we age. Both men and women lament the loss of youth and the accompanying loss of a firm skin, hard erections, copious lubrication, boundless energy and raging libidos.

You would be more than human if you didn’t look back and long for the body you once had and the heights of passion you once reached, but this will not do you any good if you are not prepared to accept that life comes with changes and make adaptations to continue enjoying it. This is especially important when it comes to sex, as there are many aging couples whose sex lives are wanting just because of their mental attitudes.

Most healthy adults are able to lead active, satisfying sex lives well into their old age, as long as they accommodate adjustments that are needed, both physical and mental. Age is no reason to cut sex out of your life. Making love does not take more energy than walking up two flights of stairs, taking a brisk walk, cleaning the house or fetching water – feats most people are capable of accomplishing into old age. What excuse then do you have to claim you are too old for sex, when you are in good physical form?

There are a few facts that are important in order for you to understand why it is still possible for you to enjoy sex even as you grow older. For example, women do not lose their capacity for orgasm at any time in their life, but lubrication can become a problem because of hormonal changes. This could result in painful sex. Some women will therefore keep away from sex, not because they can’t do it or don’t want it, but because it gets painful. But there are many ways a woman can relieve dry sex, for example, oestrogen replacement or use of lubricants like KY jelly. If you find yourself unable to lubricate enough to allow for painless penetration, seek advice from your doctor.

On the other hand, men’s sexual response pattern slows down as they age but they can still achieve and maintain erections, though not as firm as those of their youth. The good news is that even if not completely firm, such an erection is still quite sufficient for mutual pleasure. A couple who have learnt throughout their relationship to enjoy sex in more ways than just penetration, such as mutual masturbation, will not find lack of penis firmness a hindrance to their enjoyment.

Also, as the male-response cycle slows down, the female response cycle speeds up with age and experience, making men and women more in sync than they were in their youth. In their younger days, it was the woman who needed more foreplay to become aroused but now roles change with the man needing more coercing. This means making foreplay – the period of kissing, caressing, and stroking to last longer. Older men also tend to seek the warmth and closeness sex gives, just like women do all their lives. Sex at midlife and beyond can be both tender and exciting, and filled with revelations as the two people grow and change together, and also discover new ways to make each other happy. If they remain loving, active and interesting people, they can expect to remain good lovers all their lives.

The biggest obstacle to good sex in older people is their attitude. Either the man or woman, or both, may loose interest in sex, arguing it is for younger people. Some argue they shouldn’t be having sex when their children are also having it. Some may also feel it is not right to continue having sex when they are grandparents. These kinds of self-imposed attitudes can be extremely frustrating to the partner who still wants sex. He or she may feel frustrated and rejected and eventually become resigned to not having sex. And as they say – you don’t use it, you lose it.

It can be especially frustrating for a woman whose husband has gone off sex in midlife. Most women find menopause a liberating experience as they can have spontaneous sex without worrying about their period or pregnancy. Many women enjoy sex at midlife more than at any other time in their life. They are also better lovers because of the experience they have gained over the years. They are more trusting, patient, relaxed and get stronger and longer lasting orgasms. There are many men who don’t understand this. In fact, the commonly held belief is that older women are not interested in sex, and referred to in derogatory terms as frigid.

Impotence is often a common fear among older men and the real barrier to enjoying sex. If a couple shares their sexual feelings honestly as they get older, they will help each other overcome their fears and other challenges that may come their way. Most men have had a bout of impotence by the time they reach 40. Fatigue, tension, illness, alcohol and heavy meals are typical causes of temporary impotence. Older men have to accept they will be susceptible to these factors and they need to expand the technique of having sex so that it is not entirely dependent on an erect penis. By having confidence in the ability to satisfy their partners, erection or no erection, they worry less about impotence and thus make it less likely to occur.

But as we grow older and work to improve our sex lives, we should also remember that incidences of illness and disability do increase with age and obviously present sexual problems. But in most cases, loving couples can continue to have sex in modified ways when there is a health condition such as heart problem, arthritis, surgery or accident. Both men and women need to address their concerns about sex and aging if they wish to continue enjoying lovemaking and participating fully.

Women’s concerns

Women’s main concern is if their aging body, with all its wrinkles and flabbiness, will still arouse a man. This comes from a culture that equates youth with beauty and sexual desirability. Many women begin worrying about losing their sex appeal with the first grey hair or wrinkle. Women who are not in secure relationships may worry about being left for a younger woman. This is not far-fetched as it does occasionally happen.

Women have good reason to worry about men’s negative attitude towards female aging, as research shows that men are more attracted to younger women. On average, men marry younger women and statistically the gap is increasing with men today choosing spouses three to ten years younger. The more wealth and power a man has, the more likely he is to marry a woman considerably younger than him, and if already married is likely to take on a younger mistress.

This is so evident in our society where politicians and other wealthy and influential men are known to have younger girlfriends, some still in university or college. It is not unusual to see a 60-year-od man with a 21-year-old woman. But on average, most men have values and are honest. Many value the emotional depth and sexual ability of a mature woman, and will not leave their aging wife for a younger woman.

Men’s concerns

The greatest fear men harbour as they grow older is whether they will be able to continue performing sexually. Signs of aging in men such as potbellies, sagging skin, and grey hair or balding are not of great concern in our society. This makes men continue to view themselves as physically attractive even as they start showing signs of aging. Looks are never the real problem for men as they age. Sexual performance is.

Men tend to measure their sexual worth first by their ability to get and maintain an erection, and second by their ability to ‘give’ their partners orgasms. While women can and often do fake orgasms, an erection can’t be faked. It has to be real to do its work. Most men go through a major crisis if their penis fails them, especially when this happens in midlife. Their first reaction may be to blame their wife and then turn to a younger woman hoping to get as hard an erection as they used to with their wife when she was younger.

They get shocked when they act out their fantasy and then realise even a younger woman may not help them keep a penis erect. What men need to realise and appreciate as they age is that their prowess in sex does not lie in having a hard penis all the time, but by being a good lover. Being a good lover means being understanding and appreciative of your partner and working with her to resolve any sexual issues that may occur. They are better off trying to be good lovers with the woman they know and who understands them, than with a stranger.

The natural physiological changes that occur with aging can make men better lovers if they chose to. The fact that they will not be able to ejaculate quickly and that it will take them much longer to get aroused is more likely to make lovemaking last longer. This makes them a desirable sex partner to a woman who wants slow lovemaking, not the kind of youthful energized ‘conquer it all’ that leaves a woman feeling short-changed. Your partner may now be able to have more orgasms than she did when she was younger, and at last you may have become the man you always wanted to be – bringing your partner to climax after climax before you reach your own.

Boosting sexual power

When you accept that your sexual power will continue to diminish as you age, then you will be able to take steps to help you boost it. Here are five easy ways to help you achieve that:

1.     Pretend you are dating again. Try to remember when you were dating and intercourse was delayed until full commitment or marriage, and the excitement this brought. Remember the long hours you spent kissing, hugging and petting and no sex? Relive those exciting moments to bring back the passion and not make penetration your main goal.
2.     Let go of old resentments. Anger and resentment kill desire. If you are in a relationship where there are unresolved issues, you will need to tackle these. It’s time to forgive and forget whatever mistakes your partner made in the past so you can move on and enjoy the bliss of old age together.
3.     Laugh. Sex is play. Have fun in bed. Don’t look gloomy when the thought of sex comes into mind. Think of ways you can enhance sexual pleasure and discuss these with your partner. Experiment and try different things.
4.     Exercise. Older people who exercise have more sex and enjoy it more than those who are sedentary. When you are fit and healthy you are more likely to endure sex for longer and have it more often.
5.     Eat healthy.To keep healthy, you need to have a balanced diet and supplement it with multivitamins. Foods high in saturated fat have a negative effect to your body and your libido. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean fish and poultry. Talk to a doctor or nutritionist to recommend supplements suitable for you and dosage.

Published in November 2012