Sexplanations: Sex for the Young, Sex for the Old

People of all ages have sex, and this would include people who are older. Intimate sex, kinky sex, sex with themselves, sex with others, quickies, sex that lasts all day … The problem is the media has made us believe that only young, thin, good looking people have sex. This is absolutely not the case. 

Sex can help keep an aging body healthy. It gets the blood flowing, the heart rate up and can relieve stress. It can help with sleep, help to relax the body, and of course, it feels good. As bodies age they often change. You may have more aches and pains, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, incontinence. You may have difficulties obtaining or maintaining an erection, your vagina may not naturally lubricate. You may have lost a partner, you may have begun a new relationship. This does not mean you cannot have sex.

What it means is you have to take these things into consideration. You may want to broaden your definition of sex. Kissing, cuddling, caressing, touching, rubbing, can all be pleasurable. Penetration does not need to be the goal. Try new positions, use props such as pillows to make yourself comfortable. If you are having sex with a partner, communication is more important than ever. Tell them what feels good and what doesn’t. Talk about your fantasies, plan things out in advance. Sex does not need to be spontaneous to be pleasurable — another myth the media has made us believe. 

Take your time with foreplay and afterplay. It takes time for the genitals to become aroused. The blood does not flow as easily and it may not be flowing to the genitals as often. You may want to use lubrication, vaginal moisturizers, sex toys and medications such as Viagra. Maybe you have the most energy in the morning – plan to have sex in the morning then, or after an afternoon nap. Whatever works for you. 

Ageism often prevents people from being sexual. They may have been told they should not have sex because they are old, maybe they have internalized the ageism and stop having sex. The media does not portray them as sexual, and when it does it is for comic relief. Healthcare providers often do not ask aging adults about their sex lives, assuming they do not have one. Retirement homes and long-term care facilities may frown upon a healthy sex life. How are people in later life supposed to feel good about getting some?

With all the positives to having a sex life — pleasure, challenging ageist stereotypes, increased body awareness, increased body comfort, increased sense of vitality, increased well-being and happiness — why do we not promote this activity for people in later life? Are we worried they will have a good time? Maybe an orgasm or two? We need to stop thinking of aging adults as asexual, and start thinking of them as people with desires, wants and needs. It will be good for everyone because face it, we are all aging. 

Stacey Jacobs is the sexual health educational manager at SHORE Centre. 


Stacey Jacobs has been a Sex Educator for almost 2 decades. For 13 of those years she worked as a Sexual Health Educator at Planned Parenthood. She teaches in the Sexuality, Marriage and Family Studies Program at the University of Waterloo and when not educating, she enjoys reading, walking her dogs and eating good food. The life of a Sex Educator is usually not as interesting as people assume.