So, you want to have sex. Maybe you’re rekindling a flame with your long-term partner. Maybe you’ve met someone new and want to take things to the next level, or maybe your joints are just starting to protest after your usual sexual activity.
Sexual desire often doesn’t fade with age, but the ways your body is able to move comfortably do shift. With age, “safe sex” doesn’t only mean protection against STDs — it’s also about respecting your body’s thresholds.
“The body is generally less flexible,” Dr. Kameelah Phillips, an obstetrician and gynecologist, told Hellalife. “Over time people have gained weight and the joints lose flexibility. Many men find that their erections are not as strong or hard as before. Women may notice some vaginal narrowing if they have not had penetration in a while. This can make sex uncomfortable.”
Of course, everyone’s body is different. And just as people have all kinds of sex when they’re younger, there’s no one way that seniors experience or have sex.
For some, the experience may feel vastly different from the sexual activity of their youth, and for others it might not seem so removed at all.
But regardless of one’s physical capabilities, it can be an emotional experience when one’s body doesn’t move or behave like it used to. “It can be discouraging to know that your sexual experience has evolved,” Dr. Phillips said.
The first step to having better sex is to recognize where your physical and psychical limitations are. As psychotherapist Jacob Brown told us, “The key is to accept our body, and our partner’s body, for what it can do today, rather than curse it for what is no longer possible. As long as you’re angry and ashamed by what you can’t do, there’s no room for you to enjoy and explore what you can do.”
And there are plenty of kinds of sex and intimacy that are fair game, no matter your age, weight or overall physical health.
Good sex starts with the proper preparation: women should get comfortable using more lubricant than they might have once had to, to help with newly increased vaginal dryness. And all seniors should consider adding stretching and yoga into their routines, to support joint and muscle flexibility, as well as blood flow.
Phillips also recommends expanding one’s definition of sex: “I encourage seniors to not consider penetration as the gold standard for intimacy. Explore other erogenous zones such as the neck and ears as well as mutual masturbation. Erotica and romance novels may also be another way to engage with their partner if they are physically unable to. Many women enjoy cuddling and derive pleasure from this type of intimacy more than penetration.”
When it comes to penetration, Phillips encourages seniors to focus on positions that are easy on the joints and muscles:
“Sitting in a chair or stool facing your partner prevents the knees from having to bend too much and reduces impact. The couple can rock back and forth and minimize the amount of up and down action that can be hard on the knees and hips,” Dr. Phillips recommended.
“Partners can also lie down on their side and enter from behind. This helps to decrease strain on the back, hips, and knees.”
Phillips also pointed to a modified missionary position, in which the woman (in a hetero coupling) sits on the edge of the bed, elevating her pelvis with pillows if needed. A male partner can stand on the edge of the bed in a position that’s usually easier on the back and hips than a traditional missionary setup.
“A traditional 69 also requires little hip and knee involvement,” Dr. Phillips reminded.
These positions, as well as common sexual concerns for seniors, are also outlined in this infographic published by sex toy company Lelo.
Speaking to a doctor or sex psychotherapist is a great way to address specific physical or emotional concerns you might have about sexual activity. Keep in mind that while bodies change and desires might feel different, sex among seniors is certainly not off the table.
In fact, some of the most comfortable positions for older couples are on the table.