A compilation of responses to a survey on intimacy in later years.
I was encouraged a few months ago to write an article on intimacy within the older generation. I had given the intimacy subject some thought when GreyFeathers first began, but thought against it because it seemed that no one ever talked about it. Like menopause.
Why is this subject as taboo as menopause? Do people think just because one ages that one is no longer interested in sex or intimacy? Or do they think (whoever “they” are) if you’re “old” you just stop because you’re no longer vital? Or maybe parts aren’t working as they once did so that makes you stop? Or maybe intimacy conversation is only spoken with the under 50 crowd?
I found many couples who were very open sharing about their lives and views on intimacy.
Most of the couples were between 55 and 75, with one in their 80s.
To keep the couples anonymous, I will refer to them as Couple A, B, C and so on.
A question that had mixed responses was, “Since menopause, have you noticed a difference in wanting to be intimate, and had you noticed a change in your spouse/partner.”
Couple X, both 57, married for 37 years, said that while they both don’t have the “urge” for intimacy as they once had, he still makes her feel sexy, and do still enjoy being under the covers.
This couple goes on to say that being tired plays a factor and they do plan a “date night” (sounds like me and my husband) which works well for them. While “date nights” aren’t as often as they used to be, their relationship has gotten even closer in other ways.
Because they are still intimate, whenever they have hinted to this, most people *wink* and chide them. It is something they say that you don’t typically discuss with family or friends.
Lastly, Couple X says, “I would like to tell them (younger generation) that being intimate later in life has so little to do with sex and more to do with the relationship you have built with your lover over the years. That being said, it is still a wonderful way of expressing your love for each other, worth working at! So, by the oil, reminisce about the ‘things’ you have done together, go away for the weekend and be young lovers.”
Couple K, she is 61 and he is 64, married 39 years, says that since menopause (she explains), “I’d happily have sex every day and it’s far more intense and pleasurable. My husband is trying to keep up with me!”
They also say that being tired plays a part, and working shifts doesn’t help matters.
She writes, “I suppose when I was younger I assumed there was an age where you stopped being intimate. And I imagine younger people still think that.”
“Our renewed intimacy has definitely made us closer as a couple. Just wished it had happened sooner!!!” Lastly, she wants the younger generation to know, “that it can get a lot better than when you’re younger.”
Couple J, she is 66 and he is 64, married for 42 years, she has less interest in intimacy since menopause and working fulltime.
A huge factor for them is that he had prostate cancer and is physically unable to perform. They are more physical during the day with cuddles, hand-holding, etc. to compensate. She would like more, but they just aren’t able to anymore.
They would like the younger generation to “keep at it, make the adjustments as you age, don’t be afraid to talk to your partner.”
Couple H, she is 62 and he is 70, together nine years but married the last four years. They have not lost ANY interest in intimacy after menopause (she had just gotten over a divorce and was thrust into the dating scene) and desired intimacy. “My husband would say just due to aging and tiring more easily he noticed some changes in himself. He says his testosterone is stronger in the morning and “peters out” a bit at night. I would say he is Mr. Ready much of the time.” :))))
I asked if they thought there was a misconception that the older generation was no longer intimate? Their response, “[t]hink there is both… a misconception… and… fact that older folks are ‘giving it up’ so to speak. I am more of a newlywed so my husband and I are very active and loving it. But I do believe many are sluggish because of the medications they take or have chronic pain issues. Also, many find those Viagara-type drugs give them non-desirable symptoms so they just don’t go there.”
Their response to what they wanted the younger generation to know about intimacy in the second half of life, “[t]hat it is a VERY special time that need not end. We feel freer to enjoy intimacy more. I am over the body image thing. I am not perfect at this age but my husband is so loving and attentive it doesn’t matter. A sense of humor is good to learn when you grow older… for many reasons! Also, we are retired and can stay up as late as we want, or have sex any time of day/night. Being retired is freedom. When those stressors of work and commitments are removed from this type of lifestyle, I believe intimacy can come back front and center. No pun intended!! And my husband and I seem to really ‘like’ as well as love each other. We make it fun.”
Couple B, she is 70 and he is 74, second marriage for both, have been together for 32 years. During the menopause years, she said she had frequent night sweats which lead to the demise of intimacy. She said he lost interest, but she had not, completely.
She says about herself, “I have lost all confidence in myself as a sexual/sensual woman. I have put on weight, my hair is silver, has been since I was 30, and I expect that not being desired physically has contributed to these feelings. I still would love to be intimate, experience orgasms, not self-induced, and true intimacy. However, my husband has erectile difficulties, experiences pain during intercourse, and will not seek help, advice or alternative suggestions. I love him, he’s my best friend, he’s kind, but has no interest whatsoever in sex or intimacy.”
“Being tired obviously affects all aspects of life as we age, but I would still love to be held, touched, cuddled and loved, it just doesn’t happen. I really don’t know what to do, I love the man, don’t want anyone else, but I am compromising on a lot of areas.”
She says, “I miss our physical connection incredibly, intimacy always set my world in a good place. It’s been possibly 10-years since regular intimacy, and oh how I miss it. How I miss him.”
When I asked if she felt their relationship had changed from the lack of intimacy, she responded, “I think our relationship is strong, but not as full as it could be. It’s down to me to suppress my feelings, needs, wants… he just refuses to talk about the elephant in the room, he changes the subject, and I feel angry for a while, then just get on with life as is.”
What she would like the younger generation to know, “I’d like them to realize that although bodies change, most of us feel the same inside as when we were young. Dreams and hopes are still there, it’s just that responsibilities creep in, and we push ourselves into second or even a lower place. We still love sexy books, romantic films, date night… hold on tight to those feelings as long as possible because sometimes life can be cruel and take them away before we feel ready to let go. It’s not so much Carpe Diem, as seize the day, believe in yourself and your partner, and be kind.”
Couple Y, she is 62 and he is 74, and her lover is 73. They have been married 28-years, and she was with her lover for nearly 12-years.
Since menopause, her desire for intimacy was still very strong, but her husband had no desire due to castration 17-years earlier. Because of this, her husband gave her his permission to have a lover.
I just have to interject here. Her husband must be very secure in his masculinity and in their relationship.
She said the biggest misconception that the older generation is no longer intimate, “somehow it is considered grubby or ridiculous that we would want to.”
She said she very much misses a physical connection with her husband, very much so. “It has changed, it is nice to know I am very much loved, when no lust is involved, but oh how I miss being desired.”
Lastly, she would like the younger generation to know that, “[s]ex actually becomes better, there is a need to keep healthy, look after your grooming and hygiene no matter your age. Also, as long as you both agree, there are no taboos. No one has the right to impose their rules in your bedroom.”
Harvard Medical School
Harvard Medical School published an article on Attitudes About Sexuality and Aging in June, 2009 with an update in March, 2017. The link is posted here, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/attitudes-about-sexuality-and-aging
The Last 9 Couples
Couple M, both 58, married 10-years, were first loves in high school and then reconnected later in life.
She said that menopause played a part as she gained 20 pounds and quit smoking at the same time, and while her libido has only slightly changed, her husband’s lack in wanting to be intimate is the biggest challenge. Her husband had a heart attack in 2014 and since then, he has no desire. While he blames her recent weight gain, she knows it has something to do with the medication he is taking for his heart.
He has spoken to his doctor about the lack of desire (they were intimate daily up until his heart attack) and the doctor prescribed Cialis – he’s barely used it.
She goes on to say that intimacy changes, “only if you allow it or it wasn’t very good in the first place.” She misses the physical connection of intimacy and it affects her sleep as she wakes up in the night wondering “why.”
The lack of intimacy has changed her, saying, “my heart as hardened somewhat and I am angry with him for taking what I feel was a hugely important part of our life away without even consulting me or talking about it.”
What she would like the younger generation to know is that “f you build on a good, solid intimate foundation in the beginning, and commit to it in spite of all the obstacles life throws at you, you can enjoy intimacy until the end.”
Couple C have been together since 1997, she is 62 and he is 61. She has not noticed any difference since menopause in wanting to be intimate, but he can’t be bothered.
I loved her response to “Do you think there is a misconception that the older generation is no longer intimate?” She said, “I’ve heard some stories from a friend who used to work in a nursing home – if her stories are typical then there’s a lot more going on among the elderly that the younger generations think!”
Lastly, she wants the younger generation to know about being intimate in the second half of life is that “nothing is abnormal between two people who love one another.”
Couple A have been married 15 years, she is 70 and he is 67.
She says of her husband, “[h]e has fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, every disc in his spine is bulging or herniated and there is even more. It wasn’t too bad initially, but has worsened drastically over the years. He is so fragile that even hugging him can cause excruciating pain. So, we hold hands at every opportunity, even in our sleep, hug gently often, kiss often, snuggle as much as he can tolerate. We are both survivors of sexual abuse, and find the intimacy we have now is much more satisfying that intercourse.”
She thinks that intimacy changes as you age — “I think we are much closer and have more intimate relationship that we did with previous partners. Perhaps the fact that the need to reproduce no longer exists, the drive for intercourse is much less. We have friends who are older than us who are still very sexually active.”
She notices that, “any time we see older couples holding hands, walking arm in arm or showing other PDA, we notice that it attracts a lot of looks.”
While she and her husband are no longer intimate, she says, “the longer we are together, the closer we become.”
What she would like the younger generation to know is that “there can be so much more about intimacy than sex. Intellectual intimacy from talking about things and issues, emotional intimacy by honestly sharing your feelings and your past, physical intimacy from holding hands, hugs, cuddles, kisses. Real intimacy involves your entire being, not just the genitals. And it can be the best ever.”
Couple D, she is 55 and he is 61, been married 16 years. She has noticed a decrease of desire on her part since menopause. She didn’t think intimacy changes as you age, but now, “I absolutely do, for women. Unfortunately, I feel like age has a more dramatic effect on women than men. Both physically and emotionally. I told my husband this weekend that it would be so much easier if men went through menopause too!”
She reiterates what Couple C said about the misconception that the older generation is no longer intimate. “This is something I know something about. In my working years I managed a retirement community. Boy oh boy! The stories I could tell. They are either wanting to have sex or trying to find someone to have sex with. Especially the men. I always thought with the women they were more emotionally lonely but the men were always wanting something else. It was really eye opening for me.”
Couple E have been married for 19 years, she is 66 and he is 70. Her sex drive has diminished since menopause, but his is unwavering. While being tired is a factor, because they are both retired they can act on the urge when it strikes.
She said if her children, ages 40 and 42, only knew how “busy” they were….
“I truly believe if you find a person you connect with socially, culturally and intimately, passion can continue into ones very advanced years. Death is the only full stop.”
Couple S, are both 67 and have been together for nine years. She said after the birth of her grandson, she spent 20 years single as she had no interest in having a man in her life. She met her current partner and suddenly she was a “teenager again.”
“Could not get enough of him. But stuff happens in a long-term relationship, of which I had never experienced, that changes things. Illness, arguments. We were intimate several times a week and slowly it decreased. Now maybe once a month. My back hurts, his stomach isn’t right. But when we are intimate it is always good. It’s quieter.”
Couple G have been married since 2001, she is 66 and he is 72. After menopause she noticed that her husband has had some issues with wanting intimacy as he has an illness. “Of course, I think intimacy changes as you age, however I also believe that a certain closeness comes too as you age, different perspectives or preferences.”
“Yes, I think with younger people they appear to have the impression that once you get a little older you couldn’t possibly be having hot sex! When of course you can be regardless of age – perhaps just differently.”
She would like the younger generation to know, “that it does happen, that the oldies can do it and know how to do it just like the youngsters do but it’s not everything – companionship, conversation (honest) respect, care, sincere love are all most important and if it doesn’t happen always doesn’t mean you are about to enter the divorce courts.”
Couple Z, the last couple, have just celebrated their 62nd year of marriage. She writes, “my husband survived prostate cancer twice, and a widow-maker heart attack last year…. We had a great sex life after menopause until he had a radical surgery for prostate cancer in 2003. Still managed until 5 years later when he had radiation for re-occurrence. His desire for sex decreased gradually since, and at 83 is gone. We enjoy touch, kisses and long hugs daily. The friendship aspect of our marriage keeps growing and is very satisfying.”
Honestly, I had no idea what kind of a response I would get. Had no idea how candid everyone would be. My eyes have been opened. I know from my own perspective since menopause, my desire for intimacy has decreased, although my husband seems to never be able to keep his hands off of me! Like mostly all of the couples, intimacy evolves and a true friendship emerges full of admiration and respect.