Bring up the topic of sex to a group of people who are 50+, and oftentimes embarrassment creeps in. Add specifics like the idea of (yes, I’m going to say it) orgasm, and well, many people want to run for the hills. But when I speak to groups about sex and aging, there’s one piece of advice I always give. It raises eyebrows and gets startled looks, but hear me out: “Give yourself an orgasm once a week. Put it on your to-do list!” 

Here’s why: “Whether alone or with a partner, an orgasm is good medicine!” says Ellen Barnard, MSSW, Sexual Health Educator and Counselor at A Woman’s Touch Sexuality Resource Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Barnard cites these research-supported health benefits of an orgasm per week: 

  1. Reduces the risk of mild depression.
  2. Offers a 36% reduction in the risk of heart disease.
  3. Boosts the immune system.
  4. Fights the effects of chronic pain.
  5. Strengthens the pelvic floor to keep everything in place and not leaking.

Other health benefits

Orgasms are useful for decreasing and managing pain. “When women had orgasms, their pain thresholds went up by more than 108%,” says Beverly Whipple, researcher and professor emeritus at Rutgers University and co-author of The Science of Orgasm. And according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, a higher frequency of ejaculations is related to a decreased risk of prostate cancer. 

On the schedule

The idea of sex as an item on the weekly to-do list isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Without that hormonal drive we used to have, we can actually forget to have sex! We’re busy, and the biological drive doesn’t urge us to have spontaneous sex very often. We can, despite our best intentions, let it go for weeks or more. This is true whether we’re partnered or single. So put it on your calendar, and if you need more help getting in the mood, try these tips:

Exercise first: Getting physical exercise increases blood flow to all parts of the body, which makes arousal easier. It doesn’t matter what kind you do — walking, cycling, dancing — as long as it makes you breathe a little.

Read erotica or watch porn: Give your fantasy life a nudge by reading or watching sexual scenarios that turn you on.  

Relax first with a soak in the tub or a nap: If you’re anxious and distracted, sex won’t work, so take time to ease your mind and body.

Try a new vibrator: Turn it on and it will turn you on. A well-chosen sex toy can speed up your arousal and take you over the top.

One more thing: If you’re single or in a relationship that has become non-sexual, the idea of solo sex can feel depressing for some people, but that’s a mindset we can choose to give up. Instead, let’s accept sexual self-pleasuring as a marvelous way to nurture our sensuality and release tension, while experiencing the deliciousness of excitement and orgasm. 

Ageless sexuality advocate Joan Price is the author of Naked at Our Age and Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty. Visit Joan’s award-winning blog about sex and aging.