After 50, libido declines; older men suffer balky erections or erectile dysfunction (ED), and older women suffer vaginal dryness or atrophy. Even with lubricants and erection medication, these changes often make intercourse difficult or impossible. But if you let go of the idea that sex equals intercourse, older sex might just be the best of your life. Here's why:
Older lovers are more in sync
Young love is hot and exciting, but many young men are finished and falling asleep while their partners are still warming up.
In addition, young women tend to be less genitally focused than young men, and more interested in playful, mutual whole-body massage. These gender differences can cause conflict.
After 50, thankfully, men's and women's erotic sensibilities start to converge. Men need more time to become aroused; as erection and intercourse grow problematic, men warm up to the idea of whole-body sensuality. "Compared with young lovers," says developmental psychologist Richard Sprott, "older couples are more sexually similar. Couples who appreciate this can enjoy richer, more fulfilling sex at 65 than they had at 25 — even if the men can't manage intercourse."
Older men don't need to get it up to get it on
At every age, sexologists agree, satisfying lovemaking has less to do with rock-hard erections and frenzied intercourse than with kissing, cuddling and leisurely, playful touching all over — mutual whole-body massage that includes the genitals but doesn't fixate on them.
This message is often lost on testosterone-fueled younger men. They impulsively rush into intercourse, resulting in premature ejaculation (and frustrated women).
Older men, less driven by their hormones, can learn to embrace outercourse — mutual whole-body pleasuring with fingers, lips, tongues and sex toys. This alternative approach enables them to enjoy deeply satisfying lovemaking without intercourse, or even erections.
Older men don't need erections to have orgasms
This surprises many men, but it's true. In an erotic context with vigorous, extended stimulation, a man with a semi-firm or even flaccid penis can still enjoy a satisfying orgasm.
This is particularly welcome news to men who have undergone prostate-cancer surgery, which often severs the nerves responsible for erection, producing a form of ED that is unresponsive to erectile medications. Once these men adjust to their new situation, however, they often report orgasms as enjoyable as any they've experienced.
Women are more likely to get the sex they want
As older men slow the pace and learn to enjoy playful whole-body massage, women get more of what they've always wanted. Many resent men less; they relax and enjoy sex more, boosting their erotic responsiveness — and inventiveness.
Concerns about pregnancy and contraception disappear
Remember how scared you were of knocking her up? Condoms, diaphragms, the Pill — "That's all way in the past," as John Mayall liked to swat away audience requests for "Room to Move." Older couples can make love with no anxiety about its consequences. This new freedom allows deeper relaxation, which amplifies erotic pleasure.
The kids are gone — finally!
Many couples enjoy music during lovemaking. Some like to whoop it up. But when teen or young adult children are still at home, their coming and going at all hours can keep parents from coming at any hour.
Once the nest empties, this issue disappears: Lovemaking can be enjoyed any time at any volume — and anywhere around the house!
Adapting to the sexual changes of older adulthood is no picnic. This can be especially so for men, who seem to find change most challenging when it hits below the belt. But if you're willing to swap intercourse for outercourse, you may delight in the discovery that older sex can be the best of your life.
Michael Castleman, publisher of GreatSexAfter40.com, writes about sex for AARP Media.
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