Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sex and the Baby Boomers

The study got national headlines: "Boomers unhappy with sex!"

The recent Associated poll, which found that only 7 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 65 reported being extremely satisfied with their sex lives, was a media sensation. The generation that came of age in an era of the Pill and rapidly changing sexual mores, a generation that celebrated free love was soured on sex.

What's the story? Why are Boomers so dissatisfied -- or are they?

The Boomers polled for the survey reported that the major areas of dissatisfaction had to do with differing sexual expectations: 28% of men 45-65  expressed dissatisfaction with worsening sex lies. Nearly half of all men polled said that their partners didn't want sex as much as they did. Only 17% of women felt that their partner's sexual desires lagged behind their own.

There are many reasons why both sexual desire and performance can begin to fade somewhat in mid-life.  Midlife can bring hormonal changes for both men and women -- with lower levels of testosterone and estrogen causing a lower libido.  Hormonal changes, particularly in combination with common disorders of midlife such as Type 2 diabetes, can also contribute to erectile dysfunction.  Women who are in perimenopause or menopause may experience vaginal dryness and subsequent discomfort during intercourse.

There can also be a number of midlife stressors -- like financial and job pressures and being sandwiched between caring for adolescent and young adult children and aging parents -- that can take a toll on sexual desire.

On the other hand, other studies that include older participants have found that some people enjoy sexual activities well into old age -- including their 80's.  A University of Chicago survey found that over half of Americans continue to enjoy sex well into their 70's -- and found that the secret of enduring libidos and sexual enthusiasm appeared to be good health.

So what can you do to ensure sexual satisfaction in midlife and beyond?

Safeguard your health.  Get regular exercise. Eat healthy meals. Lose as much excess weight as possible.  Being lean, fit and agile can help your love life in many ways. Avoiding life-limiting diseases such as diabetes can also help preserve your sexual functioning.

Keep expectations realistic.  While we all have warm memories of wild and sexy times during our youth -- when having sex multiple times a night was a given -- those nights of greeting the dawn in each other's arms are simply memories now. That doesn't mean sex can't be wonderful -- even better.  It may not be nearly as frequent. But sexual activities can still be immensely satisfying -- and fun -- if you don't try to compare these times with the old days.  Think of it this way: what you might be losing in frequency, you may be gaining in intimacy and comfort. The hot partner of one's youth may be the dear companion of midlife who is still capable of some wonderful erotic surprises.

Find ways to compromise when your desire levels differ.  A woman dealing with vaginal dryness, lower desire and hot flashes is not likely to want sex on a daily basis. A man who is feeling less confident about sexual performance or a lower libido may also not be as sexual insatiable as he might have been in his younger years.  If your partner desires sex more frequently than you do, what do you do? I've had a number of patients who say "Well, I just don't feel like it. What am I supposed to do? Fake it?"  A better plan is to compromise: if you don't feel like having intercourse, you might consider offering your partner an alternate form of sex play -- bringing him or her to orgasm and making him or her feel cherished. You may find that when you engage in varying types of sex play, your own libido -- as well as your relationship with your partner -- will start to improve.

Make use of pharmaceutical aids.  Certainly, Viagra and Cialis have been a blessing for men with erectile dysfunction or flagging sexual confidence.  Prescription hormonal creams or over-the-counter lubricants can help enhance sexual pleasure and functioning for menopausal women. These can extend your sex life well into old age. And these don't need to cause shame or embarrassment. They can be part of your sexual flirtation or foreplay. Asking your husband if this might be a "Viagra night" or suggesting with certain urgency that he run to the medicine cabinet now can increase rather than decrease desire. So can having him apply vaginal moisturizers as part of your foreplay. You're limited only by your imagination and your willingness to incorporate these modern sex aids into your life.

Keep growing as a couple outside of the bedroom.  Participants in the University of Chicago study reported that sex with established partners was highly pleasurable.  Some 78% of men 50 and over rated their most recent sexual experience with a partner as extremely or quite a bit pleasurable. And 68.2% of women gave sex with their regular partners that high a rating.  Part of improving life in the bedroom is paying attention outside of the bedroom: listening to each other, expressing affection spontaneously, being kind, paying attention to hygiene and cleanliness, enjoying shared interests and activities together can keep your intimacy growing -- and your sex life warm and exciting.

Be open to trying new things.  One of the most startling findings of the infamous Boomer sex survey was that the majority of the largely dissatisfied midlife couples were convinced that they had learned everything there was to learn about sex. The happiest couples keep experimenting, keeping surprising each other and are open to trying new things. Even something as subtle as touching your partner a slightly different way or initiating sex when you don't usually do so can change the dynamic of the evening. 

Make pleasure -- not necessarily orgasm -- your goal.  There may be times when you simply enjoy sex play or intercourse for its own sake, without it ending in ejaculation or intense orgasms.  Sex play that focuses on pleasure and intimacy and doesn't impose the pressure of performance can be wonderful, playful, affectionate and warm. It can take away the fear of failure that can plague some people, especially men, as they age -- and bring a new sense of fun to your sexual encounters.

Don't look back with longing to those old memories -- make new ones!  Those memories of your youthful sexual adventures will always be with you.  But best of all is the warm and loving reality of sharing sexual activities now with the person you love, the chance to make new memories for years to come.


  1. What a smart blog you have here! If you don't object, I will put your link on my other blogs.

  2. Thank you, Rosaria! I love your blogs would be delighted to have my link on them. Thanks again!