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Every day, In Every Way, It’s Getting Better and Better and Better


6 Minute Read

Sex gets better with age. Hi, I’m Nicola Foster, as  Sex and Relationship therapist I spend my working days talking about sex. I’m fortunate to have such privileged, inside insight into peoples’ sex lives. Of course, it’s a subject I’m hugely passionate about. I’m sharing here 10 of the reasons why I think that making love is something that only improves as we get older. (I had to stop and 10, I could probably get to 100!)

10 reasons sex gets better with age

One – Becoming less self-conscious

The chances are that neither of you has the firm, springy, glowing body of your youth (if you even had one!). Now, we’re older, it’s bonding to share self-consciousness about our bulges, bumps and scars. They tell the story of our life. By now you’ve also probably figured out strategies for feeling less concerned – soft lighting and candlelight do wonders don’t they?. One of my favourite techniques with a new lover is to keep a silky sarong, or soft blanket to hand to drape over myself if I feel too exposed. (Top tip: these also come in handy to caress the skin of your beloved later).

Two – Better at loving touch

If you’ve had some variety of sexual encounters over the decades, you’ve most likely learned a few different ways to touch and be touched. And you may have become more generous in giving touch so that your partner can relax and enjoy. If you’ve been alone for a while – now is the time to be curious and experimental. What does your partner like? soft, firm, slow, hard, and where? Get talking about what you like in the first stages of your arousal and what works better for you when you are more turned on? Now that I’m older I understand that each person’s body (and genitals) are completely different and they like very different things. I offer a free guide to Types of touch – get a copy here: https://www.wanting-more.com/touch

Three – More skills

More time on the planet means that we have had the chance to discover that lovemaking isn’t only what comes naturally (although that’s wonderful!) There are many skills and techniques we can develop from doing some research and reading about how pleasure works. Check out OMGYes, Layla May and The Wheel of Consent for ideas on how to increase your own pleasure.

Four – Saying ‘no’

Many of us when we’re young, get good at ‘going along with’, with being people pleasers. With maturity (and some tough knocks) we can get better at being able to say, no. “No, I don’t like that, but could you try this?”  No is such a powerful sexual word!

Five – Saying ‘yes’

Yes, Yes, Yes. When we give our partner enthusiastic consent for what they are doing, they can relax into enjoying what they are doing more, and, hopefully, in return, we get more of what we like.

It’s a great sadness to me when I speak to young women about sex, many of them tell me they don’t say anything during sex. They don’t make any noises or use any words. ‘Good girl’ conditioning has led to a fear of being seen as too slutty or ‘forward’. It’s one of the best aspects of my job, dismantling this conditioning and encouraging more verbal enthusiasm for the innocence and joy of enjoying and loving our bodies’ responses to being touched. I hope that us older folks are more willing to let out an enthusiastic ‘hell yeah’ in bed!

Six – Deeper connection.

Often in our younger years, there’s an over-emphasis on performance. On wanting to be seen as a good lover. Wanting to get it ‘right’. Fear of getting it ‘wrong’.

  • Am I orgasmic enough?
    Am I  hard enough?

  • Am I wet enough?

  • Was it long enough?

One advantage of age is that we can discover that sex is much less about performing and much more about connecting and communicating. It’s a way of offering a loving presence to the person we’re with. We can let go of the emphasis on orgasm or a goal, and simply be with what is. What a relief, huh?

Seven – Getting experimental

If you held down a responsible job, could you have been fired for risque behaviour outside of the office? Now post-retirement, it’s the perfect time to try something wilder, kinkier, sillier, more taboo. A swingers event? A kink munch meetup? A  tantra workshop? Safe in the knowledge that no one from work is going to be there and you’re not going to find yourself the subject of office gossip.

Eight – Slowing down

I’ve learned as I’ve aged and now have health issues that I need to attend to my energy levels. By the end of the working day, I’m usually pretty tired. For me. if I want to enjoy sex it needs to be during the day. I use a food metaphor when talking to clients. If you want a full three-course meal version of sex – you need to set aside a really proper amount of time for that. A whole day is a wonderful thing to do. But, a little snack size taste of sexuality can be enjoyed during the week. A 15-minute window here and there. Maybe cuddle with some caresses and touch? Some gentle genital touch in the morning? Eye gazing and fantasizing? There’s a whole smorgasbord of play that can be enjoyed in snack-size portions.

Nine –  acceptance of illness.

Many, many of us contend with some level of illness that affects sexual interest and energy levels.  As we get older, we learn we need to work with and adapt to the individual and unique differences in how our bodies can move or respond.  Can we get curious and creative about what we can do, rather than focusing on what we can’t do? With warmth and humour it’s possible to avoid the vicious circle that so many couples get into. Check out the Netflix TV show the  ‘Kominsky Method’ on NetFlix for some fantastic characters enjoying a sex life in thier seventies and eighties.

Ten – New possibilities.

Rather than seeing long-term, committed sex as mundane and monotonous – the couples who have most satisfaction see it as a voyage of discovery. Each sexual experience is like a snowflake, no two are the same. There are infinite varieties of the kinds of sex, power dynamics, toys and intimacy that we can combine. When we remain optimistic, there are always new discoveries to be made. Many older men find that their genitals are more sensitive and erogenous in the soft state. Some discover that it’s actually possible to enjoy a full-body orgasm, without ever having an erection. Check out the author Gina Ogden, ‘The Return of Desire’ on womens’ sexuality in later life.

I personally find this curiosity-based approach to exploring what’s possible endlessly fascinating. There’s a freedom in having escaped the ‘shoulds’ of societal norms and knowing our bodies so much better. What can you discover about yourself as a sexual being at 50? 60? 70? 80?. For more inspiration, I highly recommend Jack Morin’s classic book ‘The Erotic Mind’. It’s a great way to explore your sexual blueprint more deeply. We’re only just getting started! Keep in touch with me on my blog www.wanting-more.com/blog  or podcast www.wanting-more.com/podcast

The Psychology of Sexuality and Ageing: Time to get Mature About it


7 Minute Read

Alan Gray is a social psychologist and researcher of both romantic and platonic relationships.

In contrast to popular opinion, most people never expect their sexual appetite to lessen as
they age.

Studies show that those who expect sex in later life, have sex in later in life, and visa versa. In fact, the amount of sex you belive older people are having now is likely to predict how much sex you yourself will be having when you reach that age. In other words, our beliefs here can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, influencing our own sex lives decades later. More reason than ever before to bring senior sex onto the popular agenda – and to start paying serious attention to the sexual needs of older generations.

It’s pretty well understood by now that relationships are crucial to our mental and physical health – feeling lonely is a physiological risk factor akin to smoking, and is associated with disease, even early death. Researchers have identified romantic relationships as particularly important, and it’s no surprise that sex – and the bond brought about by sexual activities – plays a big part.

Strange then, that in our rapidly ageing and health-focused population, researchers (as a rule) have avoided asking the question: are older generations doing it?

Take our largest national sex survey, for instance. Natsal-4 (led by researchers at UCL) restricts itself to only including participants aged under 59. A surprising cut-off that eliminates an increasingly large proportion of the population – and one of particular concern when you consider ​the rising rates in the over sixties of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

It doesn’t help, too, that many of these surveys use intercourse as the sexual ‘gold standard’ – ignoring the full scope of sexual activity to focus on the penis, and what it’s getting up to. All in spite of the fact that many – young and old – find pleasure in a much broader definition of sexual experience. From the affection expressed in intimacy to mutual masturbation, oral sex; hugging, cuddling, and kissing.

Still, those who have addressed the subject have done a great deal to debunk the ageist myth of asexuality. For a start, there’s substantial diversity in the response to ageing. Not everybody ages in the same way, and it’s certainly not the case that most older adults lose sexual interest or capacity. For many women, in fact, the end of menopause coincides with an ​increase​ in libido. And while some older people welcome a dip in sexual appetite, others see it surge.

So what accounts for this difference?

Well, it’s complicated. On the one hand, it’s a personal preference (and it’s important not to dismiss those that feel this way, or assume that all older people are unhappy with their sex life – as that’s simply not true). On the other, though, it’s often down to the lack of a partner – and while sexual interest may still be present, the opportunities for expression may not. Indeed, the strongest predictor of sexual activity in later life is whether you’re in a romantic relationship – with most partnered older adults experiencing physical tenderness far more frequently than their unpartnered counterparts. A trend especially noticeable in older women.

As the data here is almost exclusively concerned with heterosexual pairings, it’s likely that this result owes much to women romantically favouring older men. Men who at the end of course, don’t live as long as they do. Yet the disparity in sexual activity between widow and widower is surely telling in other ways. Notably, the sexual ‘double standard’ that continues well into later life.

Both genders are subjected to ageism – there’s no doubt there. But women must also contend with a sexist society that often exacerbates these prejudices – imposing more restrictive sexual norms, and creating expectations otherwise absent in the opposite sex. Take the recent release in the UK of over-the-counter Viagra. Another advance in the treatment of sexual dysfunction that largely ignores women (and does so despite claims the disorder is less common in men!).

Popular culture traditionally does little to help: ​a UK Film Council survey of 2011 revealed that 60% of older female film-goers were fed-up of seeing themselves portrayed on screen as ​“sexless grandmothers”​. While it may be the norm for older men to be depicted pursuing relationships with younger women, when the genders are flipped these pairings are often seen as taboo, or fantasy (see ​The Graduate​) – further cementing the thought that an older woman’s sex drive is something to be considered unusual and in some instances, comical.

This discrimination has deep consequences that are only now coming to light. Not only do older women feel less comfortable discussing their sexuality and seeking out sexual partners, but they often find trouble convincing health-care professionals to see them as sexual beings. In a GP surgery, for instance, both parties can be reluctant to broach the topic, and guidance or sexual health advice is often passed over. A damning result in a time of rising STIs among older people – and a disturbing finding considering what we now know about sexual assault: (1) that it occurs at all ages, and (2) that older women are far more
likely to be sexually abused than previously acknowledged.

Tough stuff all this, I admit. And maybe not what you’d expect on a website called ‘The Advantages of Age’. But raising awareness of these societal challenges is what’s needed right now, and open discussions of sexuality – as you’ll find in many pieces on this site – can only help shift the culture of silence or awkwardness. As I said at the outset, we all have much to gain from shedding ageist sexual stereotypes. And by acknowledging older adults as sexual beings, we don’t just open up a conversation but create an atmosphere that helps older people challenge unwanted advances. (A lesson echoed in the success of the ‘Me Too’ movement, which highlighted the difficulties women often face in reporting sexual assault).

Gerontological research on sex, no doubt, still has far to go – and health-care services can do more for older adults in their policies and procedures. (Those in retirement homes, for example, might want the option of sharing a bed with a significant other, rather than being separated by default; and selling lube on-site would benefit residents who struggle to obtain it otherwise). But change is happening, perceptions are shifting, and the literature is beginning to recognise a fundamental fact: that it is not age ​per se​ that influences our sex life but the circumstances surrounding it. Our norms and stereotypes are perhaps the
biggest barriers of all in this respect, and it’s up to us, young and old, to challenge them. Even if that’s just not being afraid to talk more openly, free of the nonsense.

Further Reading

Bows H. The other side of late-life intimacy? Sexual violence in later life. Australas J Ageing. 2020;39(Suppl. 1):65–70.

Dillaway, H. E. (2005). Menopause is the “good old”: Women’s thoughts about reproductive aging. Gender & Society, 19, 398–417.

Freak-Poli R, Malta S. An overview of sexual behaviour research in later life—Quantitative and qualitative findings. Australas J Ageing. 2020;39(Suppl. 1):16–21.

Freak-Poli R, ​Malta, S. Sex and intimacy in later life: From understanding and acceptance to policy. Australas J Ageing. 2020; 39 (Suppl S1); 3-5.

Slatcher RB, Selcuk E. A social psychological perspective on the links between close relationships and health. Curr Dir Psychol Sci. 2017;26:16–21.

Lai Y, Hynie M. A tale of two standards: an examination of young adults’ endorsement of gendered and ageist sexual double standards. Sex Roles. 2011;64(5):360-371.

About Alan Gray

Alan Gray is a social psychologist and behavioural change analyst. His research tries
to understand the mechanisms that underpin relationship development, with
particular interest to attraction, laughter, and self-disclosure.

He holds degrees in psychology from the universities of Durham and Oxford, and
lives in London.

Find out more about Alan Gray’s research at​ ​grayarea.co.uk

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