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Senior Sexuality Is Alive and Well

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AGING AND HAPPINESS

My grandmother was an amazing woman. Born in 1900, she was a privileged only child and by her early 20s she was a privileged wife. When she was widowed unexpectedly at 50 she had never held a job. To support herself she got her real estate license and became a successful agent and the only woman on the sales team. She started traveling the world at 72 and reluctantly entered a retirement residence when she was in her 80s.

She hadn't been with a man in over 35 years but her libido was strong and after a while she began dating. Trouble was, as soon as she'd put her latest boyfriend's photo on the mantle, he'd pass away.

Maybe she was too much for these guys or maybe it was the odds, but eventually she accepted defeat -- and got an idea. She began an open flirtation with her male nurse who was about 40 years younger. It made her feel like a girl again and she knew he had lots of good years ahead of him.

My mother was scandalized. In a shocked whisper she told me, "It's...inappropriate!" Nothing was going on, but just the idea of this May-December 'romance' made her cringe.

One of the last great taboos is seniors and sexuality. Whenever we see an older couple holding hands, looking lovingly at each other or... gasp... kissing, we smile and quickly look away. We don't want to embarrass them or more likely, ourselves.

The Go Daddy 'Grandma Dance' ad plays off this taboo. In it, grandma shows the grandkids the website that she and grandpa created. There online is grandma, ripping open her sensible cardigan to reveal a sexy, close-fitting tank top. As she shakes her significant assets, the kids gasp and grandpa looks up from his paper with a grin. "That's my Agnes!" he says.

Why should we think that our sexuality -- an integral part of being human -- should shrivel up and die after we reach a certain age? It's hardwired into us. Our desire to strut our stuff or be physically close to someone we're attracted to is part of our nature as humans. It's not unseemly, it's just normal.

The stats prove it. According to a recent U.S. study by the University of Chicago's National Social Life, Health and Aging Project (NSHAP), presented in the New England Journal of Medicine, many seniors are acting on that desire well into their 70s and 80s.

In fact, a full 54 per cent of sexually active seniors between 75 and 85 years old were having sex at least two to three times a month and 23 per cent were having it once a week or more. Compare those numbers to the frequency the average set of working parents enjoys and you can't help but wonder -- maybe we're not embarrassed by senior sexuality. Perhaps we're just jealous.

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Around the Web

Senior sex: Tips for older men - MayoClinic.com

Senior Site - Sex & Seniors - Sexuality In Later Life

Better Senior Sex: Tips for Enjoying a Healthy Sex Life as You Age