“We’re 50 and having the best sex of our lives”

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But what about men? Francine Russo is adamant that men need to get over the idea that it’s all about the erect penis. “When they can’t get an erection, or can’t rely on an erection, they often lose interest in sex.” And yet, it is estimated that more than half of men between the ages of 50 and 70 suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED).

What they need to understand and accept, Russo believes, is that things won’t be the same as when they were younger, that it’s possible to have an orgasm without an erection. Maybe sex is forbidden, what about external relationships then? These are the kind of honest conversations that can transform everything in the sex life of older people, and one of the reasons why experts believe that even in very long-term relationships it is possible to rekindle sexual intimacy s there is a willingness to be open and to explore. For some, a desire for sexual fulfillment leads to affairs.

Easy to condemn but I couldn’t bring myself to condemn the man who was looking for a relationship through the Rencontres Illicites site, because his wife had had a serious stroke and was in a wheelchair. He would never leave her, he told me, and the woman he met through the website understood the situation perfectly. She was unhappy in her marriage, but didn’t want a commitment, so that suited her.

For a married friend, who loved her husband but with whom sex had only ever been casual and non-explosive, the approach of her 70th birthday sparked an urgent desire for one last sexual adventure. She struggled with guilt, but acted on her instincts. The affair made him feel young again. She looked in the mirror and for the first time in years, she liked what she saw. She felt invigorated, more interesting. Her husband noticed her spark, never suspecting an affair, and began to respond more lovingly. A curious win-win, triggered by an affair soon to be over.

According to a recent report, if you’re single, your sex life peaks in your 60s. The Eighth Annual Survey of Singles in America in 2018 found that single women had the best sex at age 66 and men at 64.

no shame

For a friend, Fiona*, who met her partner Paul* eight years ago, when she was 63 and he was 65, “Sex didn’t drift at all. For 20 years, I was in a marriage that produced two children, but with a man who was not interested in sex.After my divorce, there were various short-lived relationships and unsatisfying sexual encounters, and then Paul arrived.

Fiona’s face lights up as she speaks: “Sex can be five, four, three days a week. That’s wonderful. Maybe we won’t have full sex more than twice a week, but we can read each other. Certain times of the day suit him better. I am retired, he works part-time, there are no children at home, so why not? When he sees me in the house, he can touch my arm or ask me to kiss him. When we walk together, we walk hand in hand. If sometimes sex doesn’t work out, we laugh about it and there’s nothing we can’t discuss.

Paul feels the same. He describes the marriage to the mother of his two children as “an ungodly alliance. We were incompatible on so many levels. Sex was mechanical. Of course, for a relationship to work sexually, both partners need to have some element of libido, and Fiona and I understand each other. As you get older, you see what works and you experiment. You have to want to please each other. Either you are a donor or you are not.

For Paul, sex makes life better and if men lack testosterone, he thinks they should take it, if they need Viagra, what’s the shame in that? “We get older,” he says, “things change, but I sincerely believe that in a good relationship, good sex can last forever. 40, why not?

As if sex later in life was enough for the disgusted, what about a cry for late-life intimacy too? And no I’m not kidding. Now that we’re all living longer, there’s a big problem around nursing homes, with men and women in their 80s and 90s sneaking into each other’s rooms.

We squirm, we wrinkle our noses and the caregivers do not know what to do. As long as it’s consensual, Let It Be, as Paul McCartney would say. Sex and the desire for it is a sign of being fully alive. I challenge anyone to say that’s not OK.

“Sex is the difference between…”

Francine Russo, 75, author of Love After 50: How To Find It, Enjoy It and Keep It (Simon and Schuster), was twice widowed. Her first husband died after 20 years of marriage, her second husband after 4 years. She has lived with her partner, Michael Harrington, 79, a musical actor and vocal coach, for six years.

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