Singapore has one of the most rapidly aging societies in Asia with 15.2% of the total population made up of residents aged 65 years and above (as of 2020). While a lot of Singaporeans are optimistic about their age and feeling that they’re in their prime even after 50, there are still many myths around intimacy when one is older.
A recent survey by We-Vibe revealed that 52.1% of Singaporeans believe that the desire for sex decreases with age¹ which mirrors what was published in the Academic Journal Sex and Aging in the City: Singapore. As stated, “There is a general belief that older people are, or should be, asexual, and elderly people who still engage in sex are viewed as ‘dirty’ oldies. The fact remains that many older people engage in sexual activities until their eighties or even their nineties. As we enter the 21st century and as life span increases, sexual needs of older people must be addressed. It is recognised that this aspect of quality of life can impart to older people a sense of continued strength and renewal and keep them vital into their golden ages. Age alone is not an inevitable barrier to a good and healthy sex life during the senior years.²”
As such, We-Vibe spoke to author Joan Price, sex therapists and pensioners worldwide to delve into the sex lives of the elderly to debunk such intimacy myths. In five entertaining and educational videos, the interviewees share their experiences and insights, challenge the most common myths, give tips for good sex and help make the topic more visible.
Is sex only for young people?
When it comes to love scenes in films and television, we often only see young people and this gives rise to misconceptions in society that people in their old age are no longer sexually active. The current campaign by We-Vibe wants to change this intimacy myth by showing not only the sexual needs of older people but also, how much pleasure is still associated with sex in old age.
We can’t talk about older people’s lust and preferences without talking with them. Love and lust don’t retire and we want to encourage people with our videos to talk about it and find new ways to experience their sexuality without shame,”
– Johanna Rief, Head of Sexual Empowerment, We-Vibe
For the campaign, We-Vibe talked to seven people over the age of 60 about their sexual preferences and activities, as well as how physical changes in your body impacts on your sexuality. In addition, author Joan Price, who advocates for ageless sexuality, was interviewed about the most common questions and problems she gets asked. Other international experts including sex therapists and doctors also dispel the most widespread prejudices and false assumptions about sexuality in old age.
All videos and further information can be found at www.we-vibe.com/silversex.
The best tips for sex and age
These are the most important tips that the older generation would tell their younger selves and also all generations:
1. Redefine sex!
Sex can change with age. But it is an opportunity to break away from the classic definition of “sex = penetrative sex” and try something new. New preferences, erogenous zones and the connection to your partner are often rediscovered. All interviewed participants stated that sex has changed and that they can now enjoy it much more than in their younger years.
“Let go of what sex used to be for you because we are not going back to being 20,” explains Joan Price. “Make it a journey of exploration to find out what works for you now. Find out what brings you great delight, arousal and orgasms at your age right now.”
After all, 9.3% Singaporean respondents believe that sex becomes more relaxed with age because you know your own body better. Sex can also be more intimate because you have probably been sharing a bed with the same partner for a very long time.
2. It’s not about the looks!
As unconscious supporters of the body positivity movement, all participants repeatedly point out that appearance does not play a major role in sex. If you feel good in your own body, you can enjoy intimacy with a partner much more. Almost all participants report that sex is more pleasurable and informal since they no longer worry so much about their appearance. They would have liked to have had the self-confidence to feel good in their bodies as young people – regardless of social pressure and beauty ideals.
3. Great and safe sex is what brings pleasure to both!
Through the media and erotic films, many people think they know exactly what their partner likes best. But preferences and needs are very individual. With increasing age, many people know their own body and their own wishes better and, in the best case, can also communicate them better. “What you might think is attractive to other people, is not necessarily what is attractive to other people,” as Peter, 73, summarises.
An important aspect that unfortunately more often falls under the table in old age is contraception. Although the risk of an unwanted pregnancy is very small, STIs make no difference to age. The current survey by We-Vibe showed that more than half of the people over 55 do not value protected sex. In long-term relationships, this aspect can of course be neglected, but especially when changing partners, older people should also use contraception to protect themselves from STIs.
4. It’s all about communication!
Communication is the key to a good relationship and to good sex. Listening is just as important as expressing your own wishes. Even in a long-term relationship, it is important to let your partner know when certain touches no longer feel as good as they once did. Instead, it is worth trying new things.
5. Quality over quantity!
Of course, sex changes over time. For example, the general desire for sex may decrease, at the same time it may take longer to become aroused or the reactions to certain stimuli may change. However, the body still reacts to touch and so it is often enough to simply start touching yourself and thus elicit desire and lust.
Despite changes, sexuality in old age should not be ignored, because in addition to the good feeling, the health benefits also outweigh the disadvantages. Among other things, sex improves your mood, helps against depressive moods, strengthens the immune system and can contribute to pain relief.
According to Sexual Wellness Educator Andrea Tan, “Sex at an older age is often hidden from the media, conversations, de-emphasised from common view. This takes away the opportunity to really appreciate the pleasures of sex in their later years – it gets to be a whole range of experiences, a better appreciation for their own bodies, a freedom in being less concerned with pregnancy concerns. We need to shift the narrative, on top of the taboo topic, that sex is supposed to stop or not function as well when we are older. In fact, sex gets to be really fun, an authentic and connected experience, without being self-conscious. Toys and lubricants only help to add different dimensions and enhance the pleasure experience.”
It is important to realise that sexuality is an integral part of the whole person and caters to the individual’s lifelong need for emotional and physical intimacy. Most adults regardless of their age should be able to enjoy the satisfaction derived from sexual relationships.
We hope that with this, intimacy myths regarding seniors have been truly debunked!
¹The representative survey was conducted in cooperation with Appinio in July 2021. 14,500 participants from 17 countries (Australia, Germany, France, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Canada, Korea, New Zealand, Austria, Russia, Switzerland, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, UK, USA) took part. Further results upon request.
²Goh, VHH, et al. “Sex and Aging in the City: Singapore.” The Aging Male, vol. 7, no. 3, 2004, pp. 219–226., doi:10.1080/13685530412331284704.
Images: We-Vibe and Envato (header)