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Sexual intimacy is a natural part of human existence. Yet, as our physiology changes with ageing, our desires and abilities may also be impacted. So, how do we maintain intimacy as we age?
Ever wondered how others are adapting to ageing in the bedroom? According to the most recent Australian sex survey, couples in a relationship generally have sex 1.4 times a week, whereas those in their sixties about once a week. Men’s health physician Dr Michael Lowy says whilst your physiology may change with age, there are still many ways to enjoy sexual intimacy.
“We’re looking at more of pleasuring, not looking at the mechanics of having great sex like you’re used to. We’re looking at intimacy, improving time together and pleasuring each other that may involve different sorts of sexual activity or maybe what one did before, and maybe it will be different, it won’t be the same like it was in the past but it will be just as pleasurable.”
And with divorce rate is on the rise, relationship counsellor and sex therapist Matty Silver says older people are also reporting more cases of sexually transmitted infections.
“Most couples who are in the 50s or 60s now, they were on the pill when they were young. They never used condoms and now these days when they start having intercourse again, then they forget that it’s not getting pregnant but a lot of people these days have STIs so before they know what happened is they go to the doctor, and they find out being told that they have STI at age 55 or 60 that you have STI and it’s extremely embarrassing.”
According to the most recent Australian sex survey, couples in a relationship generally have sex 1.4 times a week, whereas those in their sixties about once a week.
As our body ages, menopause can affect a woman’s libido and sexual experience. Silver says that in her own experience, she managed those symptoms by taking hormone replacement therapy.
“When you don't take hormone replacement and you just sort of have to put up with all the symptoms of menopause. You also don't feel like sex that much because that’s not pleasurable.”
Some men may experience erectile dysfunction or low libido. Dr Lowy says a general rule of thumb is a ten per cent decline in erectile dysfunction with the passing of each decade after turning 45. When facing sexual problems, he says, you need to consider whether it’s to do with physiological, medical or relationship issues.
“What we see in couples, very classically, what we call desire discrepancy, sometimes it’s the female who loses the desire, and sometimes, it’s the male, you know, the stereotype is that the women doesn't want to have sex when she gets older, and that’s not true. Often, it's the guys has that issue and that's not necessarily erectile dysfunction or low libido - it may or may not be that.”
Psychological barriers may come into play as we are confronted with body image issues. Brisbane-based sexologist Jocelyn Klug says that’s a common challenge for many.
“Although we might have always been very pedantic and critical of our body, and I think what’s really important is to be able to accept that part of ageing and be able to identity parts of your body where you can feel proud of it.”
When love and lust start to fade away, sexologists suggest renewing the passion by creating space for more intimacy.
“Things like spending some quality time, having things to look forward to, you know? I'd often get couples to create a list of things that they would like to do and their partner adds to that list things that they would like to do and then I encourage them to take it in turns in picking an activity and both people go to that – no one complains or looks at their watch. The joy comes from knowing that their partner is getting a little buzz from that.”
Not everyone is comfortable talking about sex. However, being a sexologist and a relationship therapist, Klug strongly recommends openly discussing your needs and desires.
“I just want to stress the importance of couples connecting on an emotional level otherwise it just becomes very mechanical, because if we can’t talk about sexuality or how much we miss it or how much we want it, then we’re left making assumptions, and, very often, we make assumptions and then react in certain way, and I think being able to check in with your partner and being able to bring in that subject because I have no doubt that both people are thinking about it.”
Klug says we’re never too old to experience pleasure.
“No, you’re not going to get the erection that you did in your seventies, or certainly not what you did in your twenties, and that's just part of life but doesn't mean you can’t enjoy whatever pleasure, whatever that looks like to you.”