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Ask Ellie: Good sex after 70 is about openness, adapting to aging bodies

Sex can be enjoyed into age 70 and older, through openness, creative solutions, and educating oneself through research and good health checks.

Dear Ellie: If I say aloud that my sex life with my partner is wonderful, everyone under 60 would probably say, “ewww!” But for us it’s a fact of life in our late-70s for which we’re very grateful.

We both credit being relatively healthy and active, mentally and physically. Also, we’ve been friends, partners and lovers for over three decades.

Other similar-age couples we know also seem to be sexually active and loving but few ever mention it, as if it’s embarrassing.

But I think it’s to be shouted from the rooftops among seniors and the middle-aged who may believe that their sex lives are over when they face an issue like women’s vaginal dryness, or men’s erectile dysfunction. (There are several potential remedies for both to at least be tried).

Why isn’t there more research and open acknowledgment on this topic?

Still Loving Sex

After health and fitness, a loving connection is a major contributor to sexual enjoyment. So is a reality check. These facts were recently described in a Jan. 16 cover article of The New York Times Magazine, titled The Joys — And Challenges — of Sex After 70 by Maggie Jones.

It asks, what’s the secret to good sex after 70? And answers: It’s about openness and adapting to the ways that bodies change.

Some research from a 2007 New England Journal of Medicine study of a “representative sample of the US population” found that more than half of those ages 75-to 85 had sex at least two to three times a month. Almost one quarter were doing it once a week or more.

So, it’s been happening a lot for years but not easily talked about.

Jones’ article notes that “along with pleasure, (that 75-85 group) “may be getting benefits linked to sex: a stronger immune system, improved cognitive function, cardiovascular health in women and (men’s) lower odds of prostate cancer.”

If anyone needs more reasons to explore better sex at 70s, 80s and even 90’s, there’s also University of Ottawa’s professor of medicine and sex researcher, Peggy J. Kleinplatz, whose 2020 book, Magnificent Sex: Lessons From Extraordinary Lovers, with co-author Dana Ménard. Their research involved people whose sex lives improved hugely over time.

For seniors in safe, respectful relationships, I’m with the letter-writer in recommending discussion with trusted friends about ways to improve sex, a chat with a doctor regarding personal health issues, plus a sex therapist for expanding both your sex education and, as important, your sexual imagination.

Reader’s commentary regarding the man who’s resistant to making changes and sacrifice because of his wife’s illness (Jan. 29):

“Years ago, when my husband underwent cancer surgery, we both struggled toward a new normal in our relationship. We were in our 50s, ending sex was a blow, and my husband sunk into depression.

“Then, I developed a painful chronic condition and also started snoring. My husband couldn’t sleep through it and I couldn’t sleep through his tossing and turning. I became exhausted and he had to do the household jobs I couldn’t handle.

“Well, we found a new normal.

“How? Firstly, as partners in this life. We’ve experienced many sorrows together — miscarriages, loss of loved ones, etc.

“Also, many joys together - the pregnancy and birth of our child, knowing exactly what the other’s thinking, laughter …

“To the letter-writer: Get your head out of “me” and where it belongs: “us.”

“Right on, Ellie, they can get through this if they try!”

Reader 2: “I just have to say it. This man sounds like one of the most selfish people possible. I’d say that she’s better off without him, but she is ill and working full-time with no appreciation for her effort. It would just make her life even harder if she kicked him to the curb. She should get well soon, then get rid of him.”

Reader 3: “I somewhat agree with what Ellie is saying.

“First, the “daughters, 12 and 10” are not as stupid or unaware as the mother may think. Give them some credit and be more open to them about reality.

“What about separate beds in same room, eye covers and ear plugs to help with sleeping?

“What is absolutely needed is FULL family discussion of issues, concerns and challenges. Also, ask your daughters for their suggestions. Both parents may be pleasantly surprised.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Sex can be enjoyed into age 70 and older, through openness, creative solutions, and educating oneself through research and good health checks.

Send relationship questions to [email protected].