Menopause, erectile dysfunction, hormone replacement therapies and aches and pains are just some of the reasons sex can get a little more complicated as we age. But according to an experienced sex expert, ‘good sex’ doesn’t conform to the cliche of fit, young bodies and like wine, only gets better with age.
Lovehoney ambassador, sex expert and author of Great sex starts at 50, Tracey Cox, 59, has published a plethora of books on sex, and said she didn’t think she had any more to say on the subject until she hit 50 herself and discovered it was a whole different ballgame.
With better healthcare and education around sex, Cox says as a generation, over-50s are more active than ever before but are still facing challenges when it comes to sex later in life. It’s her aim to help people navigate sex in the second part of their life with a few simple tips.
According to Cox, the first step to better sex is accepting the reality that it isn’t going to be the same as when you were younger — but different doesn’t mean bad. Cox suggests that sex may take a little more preparation, planning and experimentation as we age, but facing reality will help you identify any issues (most of which have solutions) and allow you to move beyond them.
“You can find it all terribly depressing and go down a sad, bitter path, grieving for your youth and focusing on everything that’s bad about getting older,” she said. “Or you can get a grip, accept reality, look for the positives and maybe have a laugh or two as you sail merrily, sexily, forward.
“If you have pain, take a painkiller, stretch if you are sore, but put yourself in the best possible condition and place for some action. Try different positions or use items like pillows or cushions for support.
“Experiment with different times of the day, when do you feel the best and try doing it then. Men’s testosterone levels are highest in the morning so try in the mornings when arousal is easier.”
Once you’ve come to terms with reality, Cox says your attitude toward sex should shift, and dropping any preconceived notions about how sex should be as you age is a must. By adjusting your expectations you might find yourself happily surprised when it comes to action time.
“Attitude is everything. Sex in your 50s [and beyond] is a different type of sex than the sex you had in your 20s,” she says. “It doesn’t mean the sex you had when you were young was better, it’s just different.
“Start by shedding those outdated, unhelpful, irritating sex myths, we carry around. We all look wistfully back at the sex we had when we were 18. But who said ‘good sex’ has to conform to the cliched mould of the frantic, energetic coupling of fit, young bodies, just met, with desire ignited by a glance and the touch of a fingertip?
“For many couples, the kind of sex you have later in life can turn out to be far superior. Young sex isn’t better sex, it’s simply a different style of sex. Our bodies change as we age, our lives change. What we want from life changes. I don’t want to do the same things I wanted to in my 20s and I certainly don’t want the sort of sex I had back then either.”
The pace of life slows as we age, we relax more through retirement and take time to enjoy things we would have rushed through in our youth — so why is sex any different? Cox says we need to embrace slower sex and “enjoy the journey”.
“Sex when you’re older isn’t about mad thrusting, it’s gentler, unhurried, less penetration-focused sex,” she says. “One reason why older couples report higher satisfaction with sex, is that they slow down and spend longer on foreplay.
“Orgasm often takes longer to reach after menopause. A disaster? Or a blessing? Turn it around to ‘Great! More time to enjoy the journey’.
“Move away from the cliches, take the pressure off yourself and you discover what’s called ‘slow sex’. Sex that’s mindful, relaxed, infinitely more satisfying. Enjoying great sex later in life isn’t about trying to stay young – either in attitude or physicality. It’s not about desperately trying to turn back the clock, it’s about being the best version of yourself so you can enjoy the second half of your sex life as much as the first.”
While it may sound like a tired old cliche, Cox says communication is key although it’s often avoided, particularly as we age and may be embarrassed about the way our body is changing. Through years of research and interviews with couples about their sex lives, Cox says it was “eye-opening” how many couples weren’t communicating about sex – or the lack-there-of.
“I got told a lot of eye-opening, highly intimate things while researching the book,” she said. “But nothing shocked me more than realising how many couples I knew – couples who were close, who told each other pretty much everything – who didn’t talk about sex. More specifically, the fact they weren’t having it anymore.
“Listen, if you both want to stop having sex, that’s absolutely fine (you will miss out on a non-exhaustive list of emotional and physical benefits, but that’s your choice). But you have to both acknowledge what’s happening and check with each other that you’re OK with sex being taken off the menu.
“The more honest you are about sex with each other and the more you talk about it, the less likely you are to fall into that awful place where you’re both avoiding any type of intimacy because you’re embarrassed by what’s happening to your bodies as you march through the decades.”
Exercise, eating healthy and doing the things you enjoy will not only help you live longer, but according to Cox, it’ll also keep your libido strong and your sex life healthy.
“Try to have regular sex – it keeps your sex organs in check! Vaginal lining stays in great shape and erections continue to stay strong,” Cox said.
“Exercise regularly, it keeps you healthy, looking good and increases blood flow. It also increases the production of dopamine, which improves your mood. Exercise your genitals as well. I have several Kegel kits in my range. The Supersex Kegel Training Set is very helpful for keeping your pelvic floor muscles in great shape.
“Take a whole approach to wellness — eat healthily, cut down on the alcohol, stop smoking, lose or gain weight (depending on your personal needs) and get more sleep. Taking vitamins is also beneficial and stretching will help with any flexibility problems.
“Your libido is elevated when you are happy and excited so try new things, go on holiday and spend time with friends. The happier you are the more open you are to intimacy.”
“Sex – shock horror! – doesn’t have to mean intercourse. You can have very good sex without intercourse figuring into the session at all. Better sex, in fact,” Cox said.
“Remember, sex toys can solve most of your problems. They help to increase stimulation due to decreased sensitivity, they’re useful in managing erection issues and can keep you sexually active if you are single.”
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.