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New Ways to Spice Up Your Sex Life

When it comes to sex, men and women can be very different. Get on the same page — and get busy!

Is sex now the same as it was when you were 20-something? Unlikely. You’re a different person today, so why would your sex life stay the same? But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be fabulous. “Boomers may be getting older, heavier, slower and less agile, but they know that a great sex life isn’t optional,” says Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D. "They realize that it's critical to staying mentally and physically healthy."

Join the discussion: How do you keep the passion burning?

Better sex in the new year- a senior couple flirt in bed

Randy Faris/Corbis

Sex is key to staying mentally and physically healthy.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Dr. Schwartz says the 50-plus years actually may be the prime years for sex. You’re wiser now. You know your own and each other’s bodies and you may feel less inhibited than you did in the past. “Lovemaking can be more relaxed, slower and more sensual,” she adds. Whether your love life is already good or has become lackluster, Dr. Schwartz offers these tips for turning the heat up a notch.

1. Think outside the bedroom. Unresolved arguments, resentment, everyday stress, not to mention your aching back, can all wreak havoc on your sex life as you get older. When you’ve been together a long time, there’s also a tendency to take each other for granted, to forget that being friends and respecting each other is an essential cornerstone of a good sex life. So take some time to reconnect with your partner by focusing on him or her more fully. Ask questions about each other’s day, and share information like you used to do, not only about what happened to you but how you felt about it.

Stay in touch during the day: Use texts, instant messages or emails to say I love you, I'm thinking about you. Spend time together doing nonsexual things — have a picnic in the park; check out a new artist at a local gallery; go for a romantic dinner. Get to know each other as interesting people who share ideas, interests, hopes and dreams, as well as a bed.

2. Pencil it in. “It’s time to dispel the notion that if you have to plan for sex, it’s not going to be good,” says Dr. Schwartz. “That’s just plain wrong.” When you first met, you went on dates and a large part of the sexual thrill came from the anticipation of what might happen. You also took time to look and feel your best. It’s no different now. In this crazy-busy, fast-forwarded world, it’s essential to carve out couple time or you’ll never have any. Planning a date also gives you something to talk about together that you’ll look forward to all week. And getting away from your daily routine can help you put everything bogging you down into perspective.  So plan a romantic vacation. “I’m a big fan of going away and leaving reality behind for a few days, or even overnight. An occasional trip to a country inn or a seaside resort can do wonders for your sex life."

Next: Sex does a body good. »

3. Get moving. "People often talk about sex as if it has no relation to anything else that’s happening in their body,” says Dr. Schwartz. “But sexuality is an important part of physical health. It’s not a luxury; it’s a need. And it’s hard to have a good sex life if you never use your body in any other way.”

In fact, studies show that people who stay healthy and active have a better sex life than their couch potato friends. Smoking, heavy drinking and a diet high in fat and sugar can lead to myriad health problems that dampen desire as well as sexual performance. 

On the other hand, a healthy diet and exercise program not only lowers blood pressure and strengthens the immune system but also triggers the release of chemical substances in the brain that help you feel happy, relaxed and sensual. Dial down the tension and you start to have better communication and enjoy being together.

And when you feel good about your toned, stronger body, self-esteem soars and you feel sexier. You don't have to run a four-minute mile to feel that way. Even a brisk 30-minute walk revs your heart and clears your head. Or sign up for a gym membership, put your favorite songs on your iPod and work out with your honey.

4. Talk, talk, talk. Ideally, couples have been talking openly about sex for as long as they’ve been together. But if you haven’t, you aren’t alone: Lots of people are embarrassed to tell even a partner of many years what turns them on. Now’s the time to get over those feelings. If you want to have sex more often; if you need more affectionate touching outside the bedroom; if you want oral sex or think it would be fun to share your wildest fantasies, just say so.

If this is new territory, you may wonder how to bring up the subject without feeling silly — or hurting anyone’s feelings. Some advice: First, don’t ambush your partner when he or she is tired, stressed or racing to get to work. Instead, wait until you both feel relaxed and happy and have time for a real conversation — perhaps over a glass of wine at the end of the day.  Say what’s on your mind, keeping the conversation light so no one feels criticized or judged. You’ll be surprised how easy and fun it can be to use your erotic imagination.

5. Redefine what you mean by sex. Passion ebbs and flows in every relationship, but romance can last forever if you make the effort. Hold hands in the movies and when you walk down the street. Lean over and give your partner a kiss just because. Be a little naughty and send a sexy text message. Do something special and unexpected for each other. In fact, anything you do together can be part of your sexual dialogue, so stop being fixated on intercourse and orgasm. Flirt; take a shower together; give each other massages; make out on the couch without thinking that it’s not  “good enough” unless you go all the way.

6. Set the stage. Hotel owners spend millions to create the perfect ambience for romance and sex. You’re greeted with silky sheets, plush pillows, soft robes. Set the same stage at home by putting soft lights or candles in the bathroom and bedroom, flowers on the dresser, even dark chocolates on the pillow. Women, take time make yourself feel sexy: Schedule a bikini wax and buy a lacy teddy to wear instead of your usual ratty T-shirt. Guys, shower, shave and splash on some cologne.

7. Switch locations. Even couples who are happy with their sex life may not realize how routine it’s become — and how much better it can be by shaking things up a bit. The kids are gone. You don’t have to worry that someone will overhear you or walk in unannounced. So move the action out of the bedroom and into the kitchen ... or the backyard ... or the back seat. Well, why not? Shifting the location can make you feel just a little bit naughty, and that adds sizzle to sex.  

Week 3: Age and body image. »