Psychology
14 Aug 2018

Our grandparents are having more sex than we think

The subject of sex among senior citizens still remains taboo. Generally ignored or regarded as a distasteful and shameful matter, it's no wonder seniors feel embarrassed and try to conceal their sexuality.

Wysokie Obcasy
Paulina Reiter Wysokie Obcasy, Global
Our grandparents are having more sex than we think - NewsMavens
Dancing, PixaBay

The following fragments are from Paulina Reiter’s interview with Alicja Długołęcka, which appeared in “Wysokie Obcasy” in September 2016.

Paulina Reiter: You run sex classes at the University of the Third Age.

Alicja Długołęcka: I do and I truly enjoy it! Elderly people who attend my lectures are surprisingly liberal and very keen on the subject. Actually, I’ve observed that the younger generation is much more prudish and judgemental.

Elderly students are more reflective and open-minded -- they come to my classes to expand their sexual knowledge and apply it to their own needs.

PR: We associate old age with the end of sexual activity. We’re even afraid to use the word “old”.

Today, if a woman calls herself “old”, it is understood that she is no longer interested in sex. Such a presumption couldn’t be further from the truth! Sexuality has nothing to do with age.

We don’t say “old” because our youth has been considerably extended -- we insist on feeling young until we reach our fifties or sixties. We live and age differently, so the model of an average elderly person has changed as well. Also, the health of today’s pensioners is decidedly better than the health of past generations, which obviously has a major effect on their sexuality. If a 60-year-old is accustomed to regular physical activity, sticks to a well-balanced diet and takes a good care of their appearance, then they feel attractive and look attractive.

PR: And they’re interested in sex.

Absolutely. It’s younger people who often insist that men and women in their sixties leave their sexual lives behind them. None of the seniors I frequently meet ever make similar declarations.

PR: Do they see any difference between sex in their current, advanced age and what they experienced as adolescents?

Most of them claim that the older they get, the more they enjoy sex. According to studies, young people’s minds are more receptive to negative agents: sadness, misfortune, cruelty, and they’re also more temperamental, especially when it comes to love and heartbreak. Seniors’ brains, on the other hand,  display increased activity when confronted with positive factors. Experience does the trick too. As we grow older, we start to truly appreciate the role of people in our lives and seem more grateful for their company and attention.

Females usually complain about a lack of partners. The root of this problem lies in demographics -- women still have a greater longevity than men, but it’s also a result of the common and highly unfair stereotype that elderly, grey-haired men are still sexy and desirable, unlike their equally grey-haired female peers. Consequently, gentlemen of a certain age often opt for younger partners. It’s a shame, because advanced age is a moment in life when men and women finally harmonize biologically.

PR: Meaning?

A woman in her 50s becomes more aroused and sexually self-aware. A man, on the other hand, is leaving the stage of intense sexual activity and starts looking for intimacy, warmth and emotional connection. At last they have a chance to “meet in the middle”.

It’s not true that elderly women don’t engage in sex. Those who had a successful sexual life don't intend to stop -- they recognise sex's beneficial energy and know it should be nurtured.

It's interesting to note that older women are not only more competent at sex than young girls but they’re also more comfortable with their physique.

PR: Despite the stereotypes. 

Exactly! Most of these women accept their body the way it is and are fully aware how much pleasure it can bring them. We seem to know it too, in our twenties, but we don’t appreciate it enough. Mature ladies are also more assertive and specific about their needs and desires, and therefore, more likely to experience rewarding sex. As long as they stay away from the popular and unjustified belief that when menopause begins and ovulation stops, sex must be over as well.

Sexual activity is also a symptom of good health: lack of sex interest at an advanced age might indicate medical problems or depression.

Regardless, love and lovemaking remain incredibly beneficial for our physical and psychological well-being.

PR: Statistics show that one in three men in his 50s suffers from erectile dysfunction. This might discourage them from engaging in sexual activities.

Erectile issues should be treated as warning signs of circulatory system dysfunction. It’s been calculated that such problems appear about 3 years before the first heart-attack, so instead of ignoring it, men should seek medical help; do vascular screening, take care of their physical shape, start paying attention to their diet and quit smoking.

PR: What are the common female sex problems?

The clitoris is a woman’s main genito-sensory organ and, just like the penis, it’s composed of erectile tissue; therefore a woman with a cardiovascular system problem will also have problems with clitorial erection. Unfortunately, none or very little research on the subject has been done so far. You won’t find any information concerning clitorial erectile dysfunction in the medical textbooks -- doctors don’t even learn about it! But I’d like our female readers to know that they’re as prone to this problem as their male partners.

The other common issue women struggle with is vaginal dryness, which results in discomfort or pain during intercourse. Luckily, with the wide range of lubricants available on the market, this problem can be resolved pretty easily.

PR: Your presentation abounds in photos of elderly people in various erotic situations. It’s a shame that due to the omnipresent glorification of youth, we don’t get to see such pictures too often. I thought those were truly touching.

Elderly people are undoubtedly suppressed by today’s culture. The subject of their mature body and sexual life still remains a strong taboo --  it’s either completely omitted in the art and media, or it’s regarded as a distasteful, shameful matter. No wonder older people feel embarrassed and try to conceal their sexuality.

I often encounter young people who have either started families or entered first relationships, and are extremely judgemental about their 50-year-old parents’ sexual decisions. They act like chaperones! I dread imagining their reaction to their grandparents’ sexual activity!

PR:But grandparents now are not the same as those from decades ago. The flower children are reaching the pensionable age -- they might set a new pattern of what it means to be elderly for future generations.

It’s not that easy. Even if someone used to be a hippie, they still had parents who most likely never manifested their sexuality, and that’s the only model this now grown-up child recognises. When such a person approaches maturity, they often feel torn: they’re open-minded and they enjoy sex, but the memory of their parents’ prudishness is strong and vivid. It’s a dilemma between adjusting to the familiar paradigm or breaking it. Personally, I would strongly advise them to disregard all external factors and always follow their own instincts.

***

Alicja Długołęcka is a Polish sexologist and a relationship counsellor, for years actively involved in the sexual health promotion. She works in the Lew Stawowicz Therapy Centre and at the Department of Psychotherapy and Sexual Rehabilitation at Jósef Piłsudski University of Physical Education in Warsaw.

--Translated from Polish by Martyna Kardach

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