“It used to be that sex in older ages was a bit taboo,” says Goldster expert, former gynaecologist and former Glasgow Director of Public Health, Linda de Caestecker. “It wasn’t talked about and there was even an assumption that it didn’t happen over a certain age. As an older woman myself, I know that is not the case. There are also more women starting new relationships in older ages - I met my husband when I was in my 60s.”
According to Linda, there can be physical downsides to sex 50 plus, but nothing that some forward planning and innovative thinking can’t get over. As we age we are more at risk of conditions such as arthritis and chronic pain, we may have had cancer or experienced vaginal atrophy or dryness when oestrogens and androgens decrease after menopause – how to deal with these factors?
“It is really important not to feel guilty about either not wanting to have sex as often as when you were younger or needing to find new ways of having sex,” continues Linda. “ There are no mistakes in trying out new ways in a loving relationship. You can have intimacy without penetrative intercourse. You can still have orgasms together.”
Disability and illness
In terms of arthritis and chronic pain she suggests being creative when it comes to issues that cause discomfort. For example if a flat surface doesn’t work for your hips or your back, a new position or using different places in your house to have sex may help. “If you’ve had cervical cancer or a hysterectomy there’s a healing process that has to take place. Talk with your partner and say you are scared. Wait until your physician is saying ‘it’s now okay to have sex’.” Breast cancer and resulting mastectomies can make women worry about their new body shape being as sexy. “There’s no need to do that,” says Linda, “because breast cancer is so common. Psychologically women should be comfortable. And remember, you don’t have to be naked to have good sex!”
Vaginal dryness and atrophy can be a common issue for women over 50. This can be easily managed with a bit of forward planning – using non-hormonal lubrication. That means lubricated condoms (yes condoms, because whilst pregnancy might not be an issue any more, STIs are if you’re dating), water-based lubricating jelly and vaginal moisturisers which as all helpful. “Dryness can make you more prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs)” explains Linda, “so you should empty your bladder immediately before and after sex as well as use lubricant.”
Many women report difficulties orgasming as they age. Again lubrication for vaginal dryness can help as can sex toys like vibrators which can be ordered discretely from the internet. ‘This might be the time when you have the confidence to use sex toys if you haven’t before,” adds Linda.
As for the emotional and psychological side of sex, Kath Temple, Goldster’s Happiness Hub presenter, a Success and Happiness Psychologist and founder of the Happiness Foundation UK says this: “It’s always important to be honest in terms of disabilities and illness and sex. Honest communication is really important. Say something to your partner like ‘I’m finding it difficult because I’ve got X, Y or Z’ or ‘I love you and I need you to understand this’ which keeps you connected.” Kath says she knows disabled people who are not stopped from having a very good sex life. “It’s important to state your needs and what you do and do not like sexually to your partner,” she underlines.
So sex need no longer be scary or taboo as we age. There are plenty of simple solutions to improving your sex life. “According to Professor Ellen Langer from Harvard University the best sex is being had by people in their 60s,” Kath Temple proclaims. Stereotypes about older people need to be dispelled.