John Wilder, marriage relationship and sexual coach, and member of the American Association of Sexuality Educators (AASECT) is in his 60s.
“Sex is still important to me,” he says. “I don’t have it as often, but it is still the glue that holds a relationship together. I still want my woman to wear lacy, frilly lingerie.”
“If [sexual intimacy] was important to you before 60, it’s going to be important to you after 60,” Daniel Watter, Ed.D., clinical psychologist, says. Watter is president elect of the Society for Sex Therapy and Research and specializes in the treatment of individuals and couples experiencing relationship and sexual problems.
Dr. Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT, couples therapist and UCLA professor, agrees. “Probably the biggest factor for people over 60 is when their health declines their interest in sex will decline as well, likely.”
This decline can be caused by the loss of a partner, a partner’s inability to function sexually, intimidation, performance pressure and personal physical complications.
Tatkin explains. “The biggest killer, regardless of age, for sexual intimacy is our brain. It’s our tendency to feel demands to perform that will cause the equipment to not work well.”
“As you and I mature, we look at sex and relationship hopefully through a different lens,” Dr. Tatkin says. “Not in terms of performance, but in terms of love and tenderness.”
“People aren’t gazing into each other’s eyes— at least for a few moments of the day—and fully there,” he continues. “Excitement is always there as long as people would just pay attention. A statement I use with my students is, ‘Love is up close and lust is at a distance’.”
Watter teaches his patients ways to adapt to sexual changes in their lives.
“One of the things that I think has been somewhat of a disservice to people as they get older is we only are really interested in selling them the sexuality of youth,” he says. “Viagra commercials try to make you believe that you can function sexually like you did when you were 30.”
Watter believes everyone would be better off adjusting to the natural changes that go along with aging bodies.
“There are many good ways to have sex besides intercourse,” he says. “There is oral stimulation and manual stimulation and you always have control over those things. You can maintain an active and satisfying sexual life without intercourse.”
“Intimacy is about not feeling alone in the world,” Tatkin explains. “It’s always been about the ability to remain present for a certain length of time with the partner you chose. It allows us to feel excited and feel in love.”
Watter says, “While there are exceptions, the happiest people tend to be those who are in good relationships. They have a good life partner that they enjoy and have fun with. Sex is one way of maintaining that connection.”
There are also many physical and psychological benefits to our health when we have emotional and physical intimacy in our lives.
“It’s good for our health and our immune system,” Tatkin explains. “The degree to which we don’t get it actually tends to lead to disease. Touching and close eye contact, even for a little bit, is enormously important.”
Tatkin cites several health benefits to having orgasms: pain relief, anxiety relief, mood stabilization, sleep aid and it can help relieve restless leg syndrome.
“At any age, it really has to do with paying attention, being in our partner’s eyes and physical contact doesn’t have to be sexual contact,” Tatkin says.
“In later life, instead of sex for procreation, sex serves as more of a pair-bonding, security/safety, warmth and tenderness issue.”