Expert advice

Dr Gabrielle Morrissey: Sexologist

Dr Gabrielle Morrissey has been a sexologist — sexuality educator, sex therapist and sex researcher — since 1990. She is also the author a number of successful books.

Sex in your late sixties

Wednesday, July 12, 2006
There is no pressure to 'score', or to set goals.

I am 68 years old. I lost my husband three years ago. We hadn't had sex for over 20 years and now I have met someone who is still sexually active. I want to know if I can still enjoy sex as I once did. I have tried but find that I don't have the feelings that I once did. At my age, is it still possible to have sex and enjoy it?

Absolutely! People are sexual throughout their lives, and it is certainly possible to have and enjoy sex during every decade of their adult life. Men have fathered children well into their 90s, and now with modern technology (and perhaps debatable ethics) women can have children well into their early 60s!

Having sex well into your golden years is definitely possible, even if you haven't had sex in decades. The "use it or lose it" theory doesn't hold true for one's sex life. It's much like learning to ride a bike — once you learn to balance, it's something you can always do, no matter how long you go without doing it.

Certainly there is a difference between being able to simply have sex, and enjoying sex. You've described not having the same feelings you once did, and this can be normal. The body changes over time and women in their sixties can experience lower levels of lubrication and thinning of the tissues, which can make some women feel some discomfort during sex. If you're feeling any level of pain during intercourse, see your GP for a check up, and purchase some lubricant at the chemist. It's perfectly normal for women to add lubricant to their sexual activity. It makes sex not only more comfortable, but more pleasurable, and in fact, women can need extra lubricant at any point in their life, not just as they age.

In addition to experiencing body changes, you might feel that you don't have the same desire levels for sex that you once did. The brain is our most important sexual organ, and libido naturally fluctuates across the lifespan. If you haven't had sex for over 20 years, the idea of being with someone new, and becoming sexually active once again can perhaps be both thrilling, and also a little bit daunting. Any anxiety, worry, stress, or pressure can decrease libido and erotic arousal to get "in the mood". If you find this is the case, putting sex back on the brain, literally, can be a good tonic. Fantasies will increase sexual desire, so perhaps daydream about engaging in intimate behaviours with this new partner in your life. Creating a sense of sexual and sensual anticipation can arouse your brain's desire for sex.

Further to this, as men and women grow older and their sexual function and desire change, it can be important to redefine sex. I recommend this for couples of any age, but it seems to become more pertinent as couples grow older. We stereotypically define sex as intercourse only, and often, especially if you only read glossy magazine headlines, it's regarded as a goal-oriented 'scoring' activity in which orgasm, particularly simultaneous orgasm is the main aim. So anyone who has difficulty achieving orgasm, or who experiences low desire, or pain on intercourse, can be made to feel asexual or sexually dysfunctional.

In actual fact, a healthy sex life is comprised of variety and stimulation, and not only of intercourse. Since you've not experienced sex for 20 years, perhaps reintegrating sex slowly back into your life, with your new partner, is a key to good, even great, sex. Rather than reverting back to the stereotypical model of sex, which is often referred to as the 'staircase model' of step by step sexual moves leading to intercourse, sexologists suggest that everyone look at sex instead as a circle — no hierarchy — every sexual behaviour is as important as every other. There is no pressure to 'score', or to set goals. Rather, the sensual journey of pleasure is emphasised. Holding hands, kissing, and flirting are as important to rev up a healthy sex drive as various forms of intimate sexual behaviour. And then, of course, it's important to create intimacy with your partner through talking. Let him know your feelings, and your thoughts on how you'd like to slowly increase your intimacy together. And soon enough, you'll find enjoying sex at 68 is as hot as it ever was.

For more information and to find about Gabrielle's latest book, Spicy Sex please see Dr Gabrielle's website.

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