In 1975, who would have predicted that the words of Harry Wayne Casey would be the best advice for healthy aging? You might know the 67-year-old Casey better as KC from KC and the Sunshine Band. Back when he was only 24, his mantra was, “Do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight.”
Baby boomers, I challenge you to come up with a better battle cry!
Creating and/or maintaining sexual intimacy in monogamous relationships is an important component to healthy aging. So why are we so silent on this subject? Whatever happened to the sexual revolution?
Are senior citizens exempt from discussions of sexuality? Has our sexual well-being expired? Have we timed out like a web browser with our banking passwords? If your web page times out, you put your password back in. You don’t say, “Oh well, I guess I won’t be transacting anymore.”
The use-it-or-lose-it cliché could not be more profound in this case when it’s all about using the app (the appendage, that is — not application). It’s about blood flow, whether to the heart, the brain or farther south. Managing expectations is key to keeping the spark alive and fanning it to a flame.
As young lovers, we were propelled by our soaring hormone levels and had no shortage of desire or arousal. Mature lovers are propelled by seeking closeness, a connection, even when our body’s response is hampered by declining hormone levels. As desire and ability waxes and wanes with illnesses, surgeries, death of a spouse, etc., there may be times when sexuality melds into sensuality. The important point is that we never outgrow our need for touch.
The new normal may take longer, be less intense, or more sporadic. The new normal may be kissing and cuddling that is less goal-directed. You and your partner can define intimacy in other ways; perhaps expand the definition of what sex is (with apologies to Bill Clinton).
Communication is the key to prevent a dry spell from becoming a drought. Joan Price, author and advocate for ageless sexuality and fitness, urges seniors to speak up and advocate for their own sexual health. Be direct and arrive at your appointment with this script in hand if necessary: “Doctor, my sexuality is important to me, here is what is interfering with it. Let’s run the tests and find out what’s going on. If you can’t help me, please refer me to someone who can.”
It’s not surprising that seniors have low sexual expectations. Society and pop culture keep aging and imperfect bodies invisible. The media desexualizes people over a certain age. Aging seniors are portrayed as comical or deviant (think: dirty old man) when sexual desire is discussed.
In her book “The Ultimate Guide to Sex after 50,” Joan Price states 33 health benefits of sexual activity. The most important takeaway is that our sexuality is not a little box that is separated from our blood flow, our hormones or our brain. It is one big connected loop.
We have been the generation keeping an open sexual dialogue with our kids. Let’s keep the conversation going long after the nest is empty. Seeking and maintaining the connection with your beloved with every fiber of your being and nerve ending of your body is what life is all about. JN
Bob Roth is managing partner of Cypress HomeCare Solutions.