Once you were swinging from the chandeliers several times a week, but now you’re in your 50s or 60s, have you become trapped in a cycle of saying, “not tonight, dear”?
If you’re not careful, it’s easy to wake up one day and discover you and your other half have gone from sexually active partners to little more than room-mates sharing a bed.
Yet there is nothing to stop these being the golden years of your sex life , free from any thoughts about contraception or reproduction.
Regardless of the challenges your age brings, you have the ability to tap in to the “miracle cure” of sex.
It can boost your metabolism and burn calories, build stamina, improve your brain function and help you to maintain a healthy heart. Basically, a regular sex life will serve you well for the rest of your life.
And there are plenty of ways to enjoy marvellous, intimate, deeply satisfying sex that don’t involve intercourse.
Surveys agree that with the right attitude and a few adjustments, no one is ever too old for sex.
Sex after the menopause
Menopause is a normal part of life for every woman. It is the point when a woman’s ovaries stop producing oestrogen and she can no longer become pregnant, occurring around the age of 50.
For most couples, this should be welcomed as good news. Once a woman waves goodbye to her reproductive years, sex is purely for pleasure. Menopause does not have to reduce your sex drive, it might even increase your libido now you no longer have to worry about getting pregnant.
Problem: Women may take longer to reach their excitement phase because less blood is flowing to the genitals.
Solution: Use a vibrator to provide more direct contact.
Problem: Orgasms may become less frequent and less intense.
Solution: Let go of orgasm as the goal and enjoy the journey. You can still experience pleasure during sex even if you don’t climax.
Problem: Vaginal dryness can lead to women flat-out refusing sex, which can be a big concern.
Solution: Fortunately, there are many remedies, prescribed oestrogen-based and over-the-counter lubricants being the most inexpensive. If the problem persists, talk to your GP.
Problem: Pelvic floor muscles can weaken with age.
Solution: Do three sets of 15 kegel exercises every day. To locate those muscles, try stopping the flow of urine midstream. Squeeze, and then let go. Once you find the muscles, practice the exercise outside the bathroom walls.
The health benefits for her
Women who enjoy regular sex have healthier vaginas as the increased blood flow nourishes the vaginal walls.
Sex also boosts Vitamin D and oestrogen levels, which make your skin smoother and your hair shinier.
It triggers human growth hormones that protect your skin from pollution, preserving the walls of your skin cells and preventing wrinkles.
Researchers at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital found that couples who had sex at least three times per week look on average 7-12 years younger than those who had less sex.
Sex after the ‘Manopause’
It’s not just women whose bodies change as they get older – men experience sexual changes too. This happens at different times for different men. For some, the changes start at 35, others don’t notice anything until their 60s.
This is sometimes referred to as the ‘manopause’, when the body starts to produce less testosterone.
Men might notice that their erection hangs at a lower angle or is less rigid, and they might take longer to orgasm and ejaculate less than before.
Despite these changes, the majority of mature men still enjoy satisfying sex lives.
Armed with accurate information and a positive attitude, you and your partner will find that sex after 50 can be better than it’s ever been.
Problem: Erectile dysfunction
Solution: There are a number of options. Oral medications are the choice for many men. Drugs like Viagra can help the muscles in your penis relax so more blood can flow and lead to an erection – if, and only if, you’re sexually stimulated. No stimulation, no erection. But these medications don’t come without caveats. They might not work the first time. Common side effects include headaches, a stuffy nose and flushing of the face. Discuss these options with your doctor.
Problem: Testosterone deficiency.
Solution: This can lead to depression, fatigue, loss of strength and sex drive. Speak to your doctor, who may be able to recommend testosterone replacement therapy.
Problem: Premature ejaculation.
Solution: Kegel exercises. Strong muscles in this area can help improve the strength of your erection and have been associated with stronger, more intense ejaculations and improved bladder control.
Stand up while urinating and halfway through, stop the flow. If you stop it successfully, you have found the right muscle. Then when not urinating, practice tightening and relaxing this muscle five to 10 times a day, a few minutes at a time, any time of day, ideally when sitting down.
The health benefits for him
For men, one of the most apparent physical benefits of sex is a healthier prostate. A study of 30,000 men in Maryland found that men who enjoy an active sex life have a reduced risk of prostate cancer in later life.
Men who ejaculate between 13 and 20 times a month have a 14 per cent lower risk of prostate cancer than those who ejaculate between four and seven times a month. Researchers believe this is because the prostate secretes the bulk of the fluid in semen, and climaxing may flush out cancer-causing agents.
Some couples over 50 avoid sex for fear it will cause either a heart attack or a stroke. However, researchers have found no evidence of this.
In fact, men who have sex at least twice a week reduce their risk of a fatal heart attack by 50 per cent, compared to those who have sex less than twice a month.
Read more: Forget the bedroom – this is where Brits are having sex
The only men at increased risk are those having an illicit affair as the excitement and the stress of their secret liaisons sends their hearts into overdrive, which is all the more reason to enjoy sex in an intimate and loving relationship.
Sex is one of the best ways of relieving any kind of pain. Headaches happen when the blood vessels in your head constrict. Sex alleviates that tension and causes those blood vessels to expand, thus relieving your headache.
What’s more, sex, cuddling and kissing all release endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, which reduce pain by up to a third in a matter of minutes. They also release the hormone oxytocin, which can raise your pain threshold. This can help with lower back pain, migraines and arthritis.
Reduce stress and boost your immune system
You might not feel like making love after a bad day at work or when you are overwhelmed by money worries, but sex releases oxytocin, which generates a feeling of wellbeing and contentment.
That can improve your mood, reduce stress, and lower your blood pressure – whatever your age. Studies have found that people who had sex the night before respond better to stressful situations the next day. Sex also boosts white blood cells that help your immune system.
It’s a great workout
Thirty minutes of sex burns between 85 and 250 calories. If you have sex three times per week for one year, you could lose 4lbs – just by doing what you love.
How to reignite your desire
For the first month of this four-point desire plan DO NOT attempt intercourse.
- Spend 15 minutes together every day and make ‘romantic’ gestures.
- Kiss. Not just a peck. Start with a kiss that lasts a couple of seconds, then increase it each time. The goal is to ‘make out’.
- Touch. Begin with caressing the hands, then other nonsexual body parts with clothes on. Include cuddling and kissing.
- Engage in sensual massage or naked touching. Start with caressing naked nonsexual parts, and move to touching genitals.
If you follow this plan for one month and neither of you feels pressured, start having sexual intercourse.
Case Study: ‘My sex life is better than ever after the menopause’
Karen Mullins was expecting the mood swings and hot flushes – but a two-year dry spell in her sex life she was not.
The mum-of-one, 48, says the complete nose-dive in her libido to the point of not being able to face sex with husband David at all, was something she wasn’t prepared for when she began to undergo the menopause three years ago.
But thankfully, she says, she found Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and now her sex life
is not only back on track – it is better than before.
In fact, she and David – they’ve been married 20 years – are even enjoying ‘date nights’ to help get them in the mood.
“To start with I would get horrendously hot and suffer mood swings,” Karen says. “But then came the loss of interest in sex. Our sex life became non-existent. I just lost the drive for it.
“My husband loves me and that was it, but of course it became an issue. I just looked inwards. I was in my menopause bubble, and I lost confidence.”
Read more: Do you still kiss your partner during sex? It seems not many couples do
Thankfully, two years in, Karen, from Southend, Essex, began HRT and within two months her sex
“I suddenly noticed I was in the mood,” she laughs. “It just happened.”
And she found, because they had so missed the bond they had lost, they made an extra effort to make sex good.
Now the couple, who have one daughter, 16, have sex around once a week as before, but they spend more time making it special.
“It is less routine now and we appreciate it,” she says. “We have date nights, go to the cinema or
for a meal, which we will do this Valentine’s. Before, that would have put extra pressure on us because we weren’t having sex. Now we enjoy making a night of it.”
- Extracted from The Sex Bible For People Over 50: The Complete Guide to Sexual Love for Mature Couples by Laurie Betito, PHD (Quiver Books, £15.99)