Sunday, February 17, 2013

Senior Sex: Why Not Tell Grandma?

An increasing number of women whom I talk with about sexuality issues are decades away from being senior citizens - which means, of course, no old folks’ discount movie tickets for them for quite awhile. 

Not surprisingly, though, lots of these women are lucky enough to still have their mothers, aunts, older female friends and acquaintances – even their grandmothers – with whom they’re blessed to be able to share their lives. And since remaining in active touch with our sexuality tends to help us live longer and better lives, many of these young women know that they have a vested interest in setting the story straight insofar as it pertains to older women’s sexuality. After all, anything that can help women of our mothers’ generation stay vibrant and healthy is worth the effort, right?

With that goal in mind, I’m hoping that as younger women continue to take control of their own knowledge-base about their bodies, they’ll feel both motivated enough and emboldened enough to share what they learn with the older women in their lives. 

After all, age is just a number, or so they say, and in order to keep those numbers adding up, there are cogent, compelling arguments to be made that staying sexually active is a life-affirming thing, so long as one stays within the confines of whatever one’s health, and one’s doctors, will allow. Not that many doctors are interested in talking about the sex lives of their female patients over the age of 65 or so, regardless of the fact that we are born, live and die as sexual beings.

So okay, before you gasp and swear before all the angels that your mother, your auntie, or your grandmother would NEVER want to talk about her sexuality, much less consider tapping into it in some sort of active way, contemplate the following:

When it comes to characterizing the nature of postmenopausal sexuality, a recent survey of more than 600 older women between 50 and 85 reveals much of what lots of us already know. 

Conducted by Beverly Johnson, Ph.D., in conjunction with AARP’s Modern Maturity magazine, the survey asked women to describe their degree of interest, participation and satisfaction for a variety of sexual activities including reading and/or looking at erotic materials, kissing, embracing, intercourse, masturbation and engaging in oral sex. 

Johnson asked the women to describe themselves in both specific and general terms as a way to help interpret her survey’s results. One half of the women who participated were married. One third were widowed which is not surprising since at least in the US, women tend to outlive their male partners by an average of 6 years. Three-quarters described themselves as being satisfied with their lives in general.

In terms of their physical health, 85 percent of the women in the study described their overall condition as “good,” while the most common health issues for these women were arthritis and hypertension. Forty percent had had a hysterectomy.

“I wanted to explore sexuality in older women from a broad perspective and not just equate sexuality with sex or sexual behaviors,” says Dr. Johnson. In that regard, she also asked respondents to characterize other aspects of themselves such as perceived level of self-esteem and intimacy. Highlights of participants’ responses included that:

Two-thirds of these women, between 50 and 85 years old, remained “very interested” in sexual intercourse. Around fifty percent said they participated in sexual intercourse “very often.” About one-third said they are “very interested, active in, and satisfied with” talking about sexuality, reading or watching erotic materials, daydreaming about sex, masturbation and oral sex. Thirty-eight percent said their overall sexual satisfaction had increased, rather than decreased, with age.

Since the participants in Dr. Johnson’s study weren’t chosen by random, we can’t really generalize about the entire population of older women based upon these results. But who needs to generalize, anyway? One woman's life, by one woman's life, our lived experiences are both meaningful and precious, no matter their frequency in the overall population. But beyond that, Johnson’s outcomes are proof positive that contrary to social stereotypes, there are large numbers of older women in the US who continue to feel positive, fulfilled and in touch with their sexual energy well into their 80s and presumably, beyond. Awesome, right?

Of course, it’s important – even critical – to note that the women in Johnson’s study used a broad definition of what being sexually active actually means, and that’s as it should be, for anyone, not just seniors. So often we make the mistake of narrowly defining what it means to be sexually active by suggesting that it’s only penis in the vagina action that makes the grade. Obviously, this is nonsense. Remember our reaction when a certain dearly loved former US President tried to assert that oral sex in the Oval Office and slipping a fat cigar into a White House intern's vulva was somehow NOT having sex? Though I remain an ardent fan of the guy, the bald-faced silliness of that particular notion still makes me smile.

In that context and every other, whether we’re gay, bi or straight, partnered or single, remaining active sexually includes a nearly limitless array of activities; oral sex, water play, masturbation, fantasy play, intimate touching and holding of all kinds, alone or in pairs or groups – happily, all of it counts.

And so the question becomes, why not tell Grandma? More than likely, she'll be happy to know that she's not alone in her feelings and that someone, at least, realizes and validates the importance of them, regardless of what society's rigid norms and negative expectations might be about grandmas "getting it on."

Have you ever discussed matters of sexuality with older women to whom you are close? If so, what did you learn? If not, how do you think they'd respond if you did?

photo credit:<a
href="">brutapesquisa,.via,a href="".photopin,/a><ahref=">cc</a>

photo credit: <a
herf="">tommie m</a>via <a+href="">cc</a>

photo credit: <href="">Su-chan</a> via<a href="">photopin</a><a href="">cc</a>


  1. I have talked with a lady that was really close to me, but she passed away and i loved her so much. She would talk with me about sex, at first I was shy but she would tell me its okay to be yourself.

  2. I do not recall ever speaking to an older women about sex; however when I was younger I did have a mentor that was young but older than me, to educate young ladies about everything pertaining to sex. I am sure that older women would have much to share with the younger generation because of their experience. I think the commercial with the grandmother advising her grand daughter about birth control and asking her if she had sex in the car yet was awkward or surreal, but reality.

  3. I have never talked to an older woman about sex or sexuality. I think I have always thought that it would be too awkward. I have no problem speaking about it to people my age, however. After reading this, I would be interested in having a convo with someone older than I.

  4. Although I have never discussed topics like this with any older woman, I am not opposed to. I believe that it could be an informative and fun conversation, for all parties!!

    1. You will get so much from them most older women I speak to is not ashamed to talk about sex

  5. I have before or just listened when they speak. It seems that they express the neglect of their past or present lovers. A few has expressed that they have had the perfect gentleman. I have disclosed certain sexual situations with a older female counselor I had and she allowed me to be comfortable and offered advice and suggestions.

  6. Sex was not a topic that was discussed in my home especially to older women. I do enjoy talking to older women about sex because I learn new things to try with my husband. Now I do talk about sex with my daughters to give them knowledge.

  7. I talk all the time to the elderly and they are very wise and full of information I talk about sex all the time for myself and the young ladies I deal with on a regular basis. The adults I deal with feel that young ladies today don't respect themselves .

  8. One of my ex-co-workers is 72 years old and is now re-tired. I remember her one day at work complaining how soar she was and I asked her innocently, how come? She replied, "Old Henney came by last night" I almost felled out of my chair! The only thing I can say is that when I'm in my 70's, I hope I'm in good enough health to be able have sex!



  9. I am in my sun downing years and I never talked sex with my mom. My younger sister did all the time but I was to embarrassed to do so with my mother or anyone else for that matter. However, I picked up a lot of good tips just listening.

  10. yes i have with my great grand mother and grand mother at the same time. they both listen first to what i had to say and then both said at the same time...are you happy? i stated yes. they both replied and said ok we are too now enjoy yourself and they love me with lots of hugs and kisses.

  11. I love to hear older men and women share sexual experiences becasue you learn alot. The terms they use are different from the younger generation and I just find it amusing. I do not under estimate my elders because they can teach you a thing or two.

  12. I enjoy sitting around older women and learning new things that I do not know. There have been many times where I have assumed that I knew everything but was quickly inform from my elders that I had no clue about certain sex things. They was able to guide me in the right direction. So listening to your elders about things I must say you will learn many new things you think you already know.

  13. I have heard of older relatives who were in there 70's discussing their sex life. Although, I knew they had partners after they divorced or were widowed. The topic was somewhat awkward and enlightening at same time.sgardner

  14. My grandmother was totally different than my mom. My grand said what ever came to mind about anything. Sex was no difference. She shared stories and gave advice. When I had a question or situation I called my grandmother. Older people do offer the best advice because of experience.