Two recent studies, cited in The Atlantic and Salon magazine offer positive proof that having sex is good for us. In one study, it was found that sexual interaction has a positive role in reducing chronic stress. The second study offers what I’ve assumed for quite a while—sex makes us smarter! Middle-aged rats that had repeated sexual experiences showed improved cognitive functioning. The downside is that we need to keep having sex to retain that increased cognitive ability.
If it works for rats, I’m pretty sure it works for middle-aged women.
There are many reasons to view sex as a vital activity for coping with middle age. Why is it that so many women in the menopausal and post-menopausal stages have given up sex? I recall one woman announcing that she no longer felt sex was necessary and that she was perfectly happy that way. Several days later she posted a blog recounting her struggles with depressive feelings. I think there’s a connection.
What is sex really for the older woman?
- A chance to experience human touch and intimacy
- A way to get the blood flowing, hearts beating and bodies coming alive
- Orgasms help to release oxytocin—the “love hormone,” that makes us bond with our babies, feel closer to our partners and report an overall sense of well-being.
- A vital sexual health tool. Post-menopausal vaginas may get thinner and drier. Regular sexual activity is required (yes, required!) to keep our vaginas supple. We don’t want the pain and discomfort that comes w/ vaginal atrophy. Partner sex is great but self-pleasuring, with fingers or toys, provides similar health benefits. When we’re aroused there is increased blood flow, which helps keep tissues supple.
- A chance to express our sensuous and playful nature. Sex is fun. We have been taught to deny our desire for pleasure, but deep down most women have sexual desires.
Are there reasons you shouldn’t be having sex?
None I can think of, unless you’ve got a severe illness and the doctor thinks sex will be dangerous (and then I’d get a second opinion). We can be old and gray and have sex. We can be in nursing homes and enjoy a romp with the lovely gentleman down the hall. We can develop sexual relationships with a close friend or begin to self-pleasure ourselves in the absence of a partner. We can be overweight or out of shape and still enjoy sex. We can have 10 grandchildren and have satisfying sex. Arthritic, menopausal, etc…you get the point.
“Sex” can be defined in many ways and the beauty of being over 50 is that we can define our lives in any way we choose. So what might your ideal sexual activity consist of?
- A couple of long embraces and a few kisses
- Wild prolonged sex in various rooms of the house
- Mutual masturbation
- Solo sex—an active sex life for singles who don’t have partners.
- Long, slow afternoons in bed, including various positions, cuddling, lots of touch and sensuous experiences
- The once a week we’ve-always-done-it-just-like-this sex act
- Multi-partners sex
My point is that sex looks different for each of us. What’s important is that you be intentional about seeking out some kind of sexual pleasure in your life. Your brain and your “lady parts” will thank you.
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