RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Conventional wisdom holds that a woman’s sexual activity and interest ebb exponentially as she ages. Yet a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that fully 43 percent of the nearly 2,000 45- to 80-year-olds in the study reported that their interest in or desire to have sex was “moderate to very high.”
To make sure yours stays that way, we consulted Debby Herbenick, PhD, author of Because It Feels Good: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction. Here are her tips for women and men who desire a long and active and fulfilling sex life:
#1: Protect your heart. Not emotionally, but literally: In other words, don’t smoke, do exercise regularly; and make an effort to eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins. “Sexual function is intrinsically tied to the cardiovascular system,” says Herbenick. “For instance, erectile function, lubrication, and sexual arousal all depend on healthy blood flow. So doing all you can to keep your heart pumping strong will do wonders for your sex life over the long term.”
#2: Stay flexible. Make stretching part of your heart-healthy exercise regimen. “If you don’t maintain your flexibility with regular stretching, you may find your sexual positions limited by inflexibility—and the pleasure-killing pain that can come with it—as you age,” warns Herbenick.
#3: Expand your pillow talk. In other words, be explicit: Make it a point to talk about your sex life with your partner, including the words for the relevant body parts (like penis, vagina, clitoris, or whatever words you’re most comfortable using) and sex acts (such as oral sex, vaginal sex, fantasies, and even dirty talk). If you and your partner can talk openly, it will be easy to work through the speed bumps that inevitably arise. “Few couples avoid sex-related problems entirely,” says Herbenick. “It’s almost guaranteed that at some point in your time together, one of you will notice a drop in desire or energy for sex, especially if you have children, fall sick, or go through a period of stress."
#4: Get to know your own body. You may need to experiment a bit to find out what makes it easier for you to experience sexual pleasure or orgasm. Herbenick recommends using your hands or a sex toy such as a vibrator to explore your own body and identify, specifically, what types of touch or stimulation feel good. Then consider showing your partner, literally, by pleasuring yourself in front of him or her—and inviting your partner to do the same.
#5: Stay close emotionally. If you do, says Herbenick, it will help you physically, as well. “As they age, men and women often have difficulties with sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, or erections, but they still maintain a high level of sexual satisfaction,” she says. “This is, in part, because both men and women tend to pay more attention to the emotional aspects of sex as they age." If you attend to the emotional matters, the physical consequences of aging will have less of an impact. "Closeness, connection, and affection can greatly contribute to pleasurable and satisfying sex—often more so than we realize," says Herbenick.