An ageless love life begins with a confident approach toward sex. Celebrate Valentine’s Day by exploring the possibilities—don’t let your age stop you.
I cannot reiterate this point enough: attitude is the key to sexual longevity. My patients tell me that sex gives them as much joy at seventy as it did at twenty. Some say it is even better! From my clinical experience, I have concluded that equal pleasure can be obtained from occasional, prolonged intercourse with one orgasm as with frequent, rapid intercourse with multiple orgasms.
Many give up their sex lives as soon as they start identifying themselves as “old,” especially once they retire. The idea that retirement equals nirvana is an unfortunate myth perpetrated in our modern culture. I have observed in my practice that retirement can lead to inertia, boredom, and stagnation. Many of my older patients, even those who are wealthy, choose not to retire. They may cut back their hours and delegate responsibility to others, but they remain active, both in work and in play. These individuals tend to be my healthiest, most superpotent patients. They live longer, and the quality of their lives seems better than those who stop challenging themselves and throw in the towel for retirement.
Until recently, our society’s image of aging usually excluded sex. It had been considered unseemly for older people to talk about it, much less do it. I know elderly people who have to sneak around to have sex just as they did when they were teenagers because they know it will be frowned upon by their peers and especially by their own children. Other older people stop having sex altogether because they buy into the notion that they are supposed to give up sex. They suppress their sexuality because it somehow seems inappropriate to express it.
It is my hope that the generation I now see entering their senior years challenges all of that. They deserve active, healthy sex lives as long as they remain physically fit. It will not harm them unless they try to do things their muscles and joints are too weak to manage or they overextend themselves to the point of exhaustion. Do not expect to do at fifty what you could do at forty, or do at sixty what you could do at fifty, and so on. Adjust your sexual activities as your body changes, just as you adjust other activities. Look upon the adjustment as both a new challenge and a new opportunity. As you age, learn to use your mind and imagination to make up in creativity what you may lack in physical strength.
As long as you are able to breathe, move your extremities, maintain relative control over your bodily functions, remain alert enough to identify the date and day of the week, and sustain a positive mental outlook, you can continue to have sex indefinitely. You can stay sexy as you age by maintaining good overall health habits:
- Exercise regularly
- Minimize your consumption of fat and cholesterol
- Control your weight
- Refrain from smoking, excessive drinking, and drugs
- Watch your blood pressure
- See your physician regularly
- Most importantly, do not think old!
Your body may produce less testosterone, your blood vessels may become partially obstructed and diminish blood flow, and your muscles and joints may begin to deteriorate. But if your mind is still strong, your sex life can be strong, too. The key is not to lament what you have lost. Be grateful for what you still have and make the most of it. Think of yourself as a singer whose voice is not as powerful as it once was but who more than makes up for it with phrasing, feeling, and subtlety. Think of yourself as an athlete or a dancer whose legs are no longer as strong as oaks but who performs with added grace shaped by the wisdom that comes with experience. If you keep your enthusiasm, you can compensate for or even delay the effects of aging.
If you have a vibrant sex life, you are young no matter what your age may be. The strenuous sexual exercise will sharpen your mind, exalt your soul, and keep you feeling vigorous. In short, you do not stop having sex because you get old—you get old because you stop having sex!
In many ways, your later years should be the golden years for your sexuality. You do not have to get up and go to the office in the morning, you do not have to worry as much about kids and bills, you have less daily stress and fewer pressures, you have more privacy, you have more time, and you can afford the luxury of patience.
I would like to make a prediction. Based on my clinical experience and my understanding of current research, I am convinced that the future bodes well for the sex lives of people now entering their senior years and even better for those now middle-aged. I base this prediction on the burgeoning cultural view that the elderly can be active and fulfilled, even when it comes to sex. This is in addition to the amazing progress that has been made in extending the capacities of other bodily functions. The upper limits of what the body can do have been continuously broadened. In sports, what were once considered insurmountable barriers, such as the four-minute mile and the seven-foot high jump, are all now accomplished routinely. The peak years of athletes have been dramatically extended through unique conditioning procedures, nutritional advances, and medical science. There is no reason why the years of active sexuality cannot be similarly extended.
In this new century, people will be sexually active into their nineties! For one thing, lifespan will continue to increase. Impressive medical advancements, healthier lifestyles, and new discoveries in the field of genetics will continue. This research holds the promise to prolong life through drugs and genetic engineering. I predict that the quality of life in old age will improve geometrically. The elderly are far more vital and far more dynamic than ever before. In addition, society’s attitude toward sex and the elderly is becoming more permissive. It will no doubt become far more acceptable to be sexually active into old age, a trend that will probably accelerate as the generation that came of age during the sexual revolution approaches seniority.
Dudley Seth Danoff, MD, FACS, is president and founder of the Cedars-Sinai Tower Urology Group in Los Angeles, a Diplomate of the American Board of Urology, a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and the author of two books on men’s health.