Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Senior Sex Research: Here's what I'd like to know

When I started writing about senior sex in 2005, it was difficult to find studies about sex and aging. It's somewhat better now, though still limited. Researchers are more open to including our age group, but I wonder if they're asking the right questions.

I'm not looking for statistics, such as how many of us are having sex. Doesn't that depend on (a) how the researchers and the subjects define "having sex" and (b) whether we have what we need (partner, privacy, physical ability, emotional intimacy) to have the kind of sex we want?

I'd like to see research into how we think about sex now, what determines quality of sex, what's missing in our sexual worlds, what we're learning about sex and about ourselves during our later years.

So while we're waiting for the right research to be done, here are some questions for you if you're over 50, 60, 70 and beyond:

1. If a researcher asked if you are "sexually active," how would you answer? What would you mean by that answer?

2. How has the definition of "what is sex?" changed or evolved for you over time? What did it used to mean? What does it mean now? What made your definition change (if it changed)?

3. If you could be in any kind of sexual relationship you wanted, what would it be? Never mind how you might be judged -- what would be ideal for the real you, maybe the secret you?

4. What would you like to tell our society about sex and aging?

I asked the good folks who follow my Naked at Our Age Facebook page, "If researchers wandered over here to learn what studies we'd like to see conducted about sex and aging, what would you suggest?" Here are some of their suggestions:

  • Studies toward normalizing serial monogamous relationships. As we age, the chances are that we will lose our partner. When that happens, it should be easier to establish new relationships without feeling that we are betraying the partner who has died. We don't have to give up our former love in order to love another person. I think we can keep the truth and warmth of the past love, have an additional love or two, without feeling that we have violated the truth of the first. 
  • I'd love to see more of an in-depth study on how illness/ disability/ aging affect our sexuality and sex lives.
  • How about a serious, non-judgmental look at the multi-faceted, complicated reasons for diminished libido as we age? (hormonal, psychological, physiological) Why it affects some and not others and methods - again multi-faceted - for those who indeed want to revitalize their libido.
  • Can ingrained sexual scripts be changed enough so that new ways of "having sex" aren't seen as less satisfying than former ways? 
  • What is the most effective way to help older adults get on board with safer sex? 
  • The best ways to empower older adults to set, communicate, and respect sexual boundaries.
  • I'm fascinated by what seems to be a growing popularity of open marriages or open relationships in the over 50 crowd. Is this just anecdotal or have others noticed it too? 
  • Re-defining what "satisfying sex" is to align better with how bodies change with age. This could go hand-in-hand with the ever-popular yet hardly discussed question, "What is sex?" It can be so many things. 
  • Seniors discovering and accepting polyamory.

I'm eager to hear from you, whether you'd like to answer one of my questions or add to the list of what researchers should study. Please post a comment and include your real age. You can choose any name you want when you comment, so be creative and please choose something other than "Anonymous"! (Choose "Name/URL" from the comment drop-down menu. You can then type the name of your choice, and you do not need to include a URL.)

Let's keep talking. The conversation has just begun!

P.S. When I invite you to comment, I'm inviting you -- real people -- to share your personal views. I'm not inviting ads for escort services, ED "cures," porn sites, or other commercial enterprises. And I don't need to be told to repent -- not gonna happen. I shouldn't have to say any of this, but the number of comments I have to delete indicates otherwise. [I know, the trolls and robots aren't even reading this, but I have to try.]