February is a month people like to talk about love, dating and sex. This is fine if you are someone who is into this, annoying if you are not, and can be downright devastating if you are someone who is heartbroken or lonely. When we think about love, dating and sex many of us think of young people, maybe people who are middle age, but what about older adults?
Many of us are ageist. We discriminate and stereotype based on people’s age. Many of us think the idea of older adults having sex is repulsive. We don’t like to think of our parents or grandparents having intimate relationships, and we assume people of a certain age don’t masturbate or have sexual fantasies. If we do imagine older adults in relationships we often think of monogamous, long-term relationships with little sex, and if sex is happening, it is boring and vanilla.
I am here to tell you that older adults have sex. Sometimes better sex and more sex than young people. They have kinky sex and they masturbate. They are involved in poly and open relationships, and sometimes relationships with people half their age. Why are we not happier about this? We are all ageing. Many of us will become “older adults”. Do we not want this for ourselves?
Many people who are older have internalized the ageist and discriminatory norms and values of our society, and believe they should not have sex or romantic relationships. They may think if a partner dies or they get divorced that relationships and sex are a thing of the past – luckily there are many people who are rejecting these ideas.
People are beginning new relationships – both sexual and romantic – in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. They are online dating and using dating apps. They are getting involved in the kink community and trying new things. Some older adults who previously identified as straight and cisgender are identifying as gay, lesbian, bi, non-binary and trans as they are feeling safe and comfortable for the first time in their lives to do so.
Others who were out when they were young are making the difficult decision to hide their identity as an older adult in order to receive the care they need and deserve in a long term care facility as homophobia and transphobia are still rampant.
Our society values some people over others. Young people are valued, but young people become old people. Older adults are young people but with more experiences, stories, wisdom and time on their hands. Possibly time on their hands to be adventurous with sex and relationships. I am not saying that all older adults want to have sex or be in a relationship, but the choice should be theirs and is it truly a choice if you are made to feel your choice is disgusting or inappropriate.
Everyone deserves companionship, pleasure and happiness, even those of us who are no longer considered “young.” So maybe stop picturing your parents having sex and picture yourself when you are older. This may help you stop those ageist thoughts and respect the happiness of others.
Stacey Jacobs is a local sex educator and advocate.