Most people anticipate getting older and enjoying the golden years of life, but what does that look like? Does it look like spending time for travel, spoiling your grandkids, or hobbies? Does it include having a great sex life? A study in The Gerontologist examines how well our sexual expectations match reality over time.
In the MIDUS (Midlife in the US) study, hundreds of adult couples aged 45 and up were asked to rate how satisfying they thought their sex lives would be in 10 years. Then, researchers checked in on the participants a decade later. The results seem to show the power of positive thoughts. Participants who were hopeful about their sex lives reported having more satisfying and frequent sex than those with lower expectations.
Sexually hopeful people with physical limitations they didn’t have when the study started, like pain making it harder to exercise or lift groceries, also had more recurrent sex than those with no restrictions and lower expectations. Natalie Wilton, a therapist who focuses on senior sexuality, says it’s not surprising that people feel cynical about sex as they get older.
Wilton said the idea that older people don’t have sex hinders discussions of healthy sexuality for older people, which can stop them when they need to adapt their bedroom approach. She also shared some tips for older people who are not ready to leave their sex life behind. Here are some ways to keep your sex life going in your golden years.
Wilton’s most significant piece of advice is to plan for more time regarding sex. As we get older, our sexual response cycle, or the time it takes to become aroused before and during sexual activity, slows down. Women especially require more touch and time before getting ready. There are also some people whose medical conditions worsen at night, so Wilton suggests moving sex to the afternoon or morning.
Prepare the bed.
Mobility tends to be a prominent issue regarding having comfortable sex, but Wilton says today’s seniors have choices. Supports can help you into a pain-free position. There are numerous things on the market, like wedges and benches, but you can also use pillows. Even changing positions can help.
Try new ways to connect.
Wilton urges clients to change their view of what intimacy and sex look like and develop flexibility around that and try not to overthink about it if something isn’t working. For example, if your partner isn’t in the mood, don’t immediately think that your partner doesn’t want to be with you. Instead, try something different and adapt. Instead of having sex, try giving a back massage or cuddling, giving that space and time for things to flow and move more organically.
Consider your medication’s side effects.
Regarding sex, Wilton suggests advocating for yourself and asking questions at the doctor’s office. Things like heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s, and other illnesses adults encounter as they age typically have medications that may cause side effects or a sexual side effect based on the illness.
Despite challenges, sex in your older years can be the most satisfying of your life. All it takes is some innovation and creativity.