Sex doesn't stop after 60: 'We can stay sexually zesty and vibrant'
Sex after 60 isn’t something people talk about that much — but Joan Price is looking to change that.
The 79-year-old speaker and author of Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk About Sex After Sixty and Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex tells Yahoo Life that if “we give ourselves regular sexual attention and orgasms, we can stay sexually zesty and vibrant and reap all the benefits of regular orgasms such as a sense of well-being, being in touch with our physicality, sleeping better” and more.
The University of Michigan’s 2018 National Poll on Healthy Aging found that most older adults (76%) agreed that sex is an important part of a romantic relationship at any age. The poll also found that 45% of those 65 to 80 years old are sexually active.
But Leah Millheiser, director of the female sexual medicine program at Stanford University Medical Center, acknowledges that it’s still a taboo topic and people don’t typically see women being depicted as sexual beings after menopause, telling Yahoo Life: “That’s unfortunate because we know men and women across their lifetime will go on to having very enjoyable and satisfying sex lives. You have to work a little harder for it to be enjoyable and successful. But it’s very achievable.”
Millheiser says that society has “definitely made strides” in talking about sex and sexuality in midlife and beyond but that “we are nowhere near where we need to be.” She points to Jennifer Lopez during the 2020 Super Bowl LIV halftime show, where the star, then 50, “came out and blew people’s minds — she looks great and gorgeous. For many people it was shocking.” Millheiser also points out that 50-year-old Gwyneth Paltrow has also been vocal about sexuality in midlife.
Even so, “we are very far from having normalized sexuality in the golden years for women,” says Millheiser. “We can have erectile dysfunction ads all over the place, but you can’t say ‘vagina’ and ‘vaginal dryness.’ It starts with normalizing sexuality after a certain age.” She mentions how on the show Grace and Frankie “they actually show a sex scene with Jane Fonda and it was extremely hot to watch — there needs to be more of that.”
It’s something Price can relate to. “Usually, sex and seniors were never mentioned in the same sentence, and if they were it was doom and gloom. But I was having glorious sex” in her 60s with her lover, who eventually became her husband (he died of cancer 7 years after they met). After wondering why there weren’t any books that talked about positive sexual experiences past age 60, Price ended up writing a book about it herself — and she’s been vocal about the topic ever since.
Price says that as people age, there are ways that sex can actually be better than ever. “When I say can be, I mean it doesn’t happen automatically,” she shares. “This is something we make a priority. ... It’s important to keep yourself sexually healthy and vibrant by having regular sex sessions — whether that’s sex dates with yourself or a partner. Solo sex is real sex.”
That said, sex after 60 does have its challenges. Millheiser says it can be a “double-edged sword.” On the one hand, there can be issues with low libido, vaginal dryness and sexual dysfunction. But on the other hand, sex can also be better “because you know what you want and you know how to ask what you want,” she says.
Price acknowledges that it can be harder to get aroused and reach orgasm with age. “But that doesn’t mean sex is over,” she says. “It means we explore new ways and new erogenous zones. It may be the addition of a sex toy and not just a partner’s finger or mouth or genitals. We need to ask for what we need, and before we can do that we need to know what to ask for. That’s again why solo sex is important — even if we’re in a relationship — because we can explore on our own to know what to ask for.”
Of course, one of the benefits of aging, says Price, is worrying less about what other people think — and that includes in the bedroom. “We’ve spent too much of our lives worrying about being judged or shamed,” she says. “Let’s apply this to sex too” — meaning speaking up about what you like and don’t like between the sheets, especially if what aroused you in the past doesn’t work for you anymore.
“We can do it in a loving way,” Price says. “‘Honey, I know I used to love being touched this way, but now it feels different to me and I’d love it if you’d touch me this way.’ Or even, ‘I’m not sure how I like to be touched — could we explore and I’ll give you feedback?’”
She adds: “You are doing your partner a favor by giving direction in a loving way.”
That also includes adding sex toys — along with lubricants to help with vaginal dryness — to the mix. “Don’t be shy about saying, ‘I will only have an orgasm if we bring my vibrator into this wonderful relationship,’” says Price. “One of my taglines is, ‘A well-chosen, well-placed vibrator may be the difference between orgasms and no orgasms.’”
She continues: “We have our best sex when we have enough intensity and sensation. Often bringing a vibrator into the mix, whether solo or becoming a threesome with your partner — you, me and the vibrator — can make sex sizzling and splendid.”
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