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Sex Isn't Taboo Topic for Seniors

Sentinel Staff Writer

The same generation that ushered in the sexual revolution is about to have its way with senior sex.

"Attitudes about sex among seniors are changing as the baby boom generation comes along," said Arthur Hall, an Orlando family physician who led a program recently about aging and sexuality.

At the program titled "Romance, Intimacy & Aging" - a sort of Sex Ed for Seniors - Andy and Glenda Marshall came to learn new ways to add spark to their relationship.

"We've been married 48 years," said Andy Marshall. "She knows all my tricks by now."

The presentation provided an opportunity for seniors to learn about the positive effects of intimacy and sex on their physical and psychological health. It drew dozens of couples and a few singles.

Research shows that sexual activity occurs in about 73 percent of those aged 57-64, 53 percent of those 65-74, and 26 percent of those 75 and older.

Hall compared attitudes about sex among Depression-era seniors versus those of older baby boomers. The two major differences among the groups was that boomers felt stronger about sex being important for every age group, and were more receptive to sexual activities such as watching adult films.

Boomers are also less likely to succumb to the negative psychological aspects of aging and sex that have plagued older seniors, such as accepting and internalizing society's view of asexual seniors.

Hall also discussed the physical impact of aging on sexuality. For instance, decreases in sex hormones among men and women and other factors result in changes such as fewer orgasmic contractions in women and decreased ability to achieve and maintain erections for men. A drop in sexual activity among seniors is also attributed to conditions such as arthritis, menopause, diabetes and neurological disorders.

Hall added that certain medications, such as diuretics, can decrease libido.

Benefits of sex include a boost to the immune system, natural pain relief, tension relief, and anti-depression and aerobic benefits.

Hall suggests older couples talk to their doctor to find ways to improve intimacy and sexuality in their lives. Only 22 percent of women and 38 percent of men discuss sexuality topics with their doctor, according to the AARP.

The Marshalls, who are both 63, offered their own advice.

"Good communication is a big thing - and understanding," said Glenda Marshall.

Added her husband: "Understanding is huge. They say marriage is a 50-50 partnership. That's not true. It's 5 percent you get what you want. The other 95 percent you negotiate."

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