In our eagerness to correct the old misconceptions, we do need to be wary of falling into the trap of replacing one assumption with another — that all older people want to continue to be sexually active and that every one of us will have sexual needs until the day we die. One thing is true. We are all individuals. Some people will keep their interest in sex as they get older, but there are others who are quite happy to lose the urge as other aspects of their lives take precedence. Of course there are still others who never liked it much anyway and that’s not likely to change.
What might change is the way you want to express your sexual feelings. Harold is in his sixties. He explains, ‘In many respects the peaks of intense sexual feelings are not as keen as in my younger years and I’ve certainly slowed up. Although I still have orgasms, touching, companionship and just being close have become much more important than in my youth.’
One of the inevitabilities of growing old is the prospect of separation from your partner because of illness or death. Losing the person who has shared your most intimate moments is devastating. If you ask someone who is recently widowed what they miss the most, it’s often the little things like the Sunday morning cup of tea, or curling up on the lounge to watch television, asking their opinion on a flower arrangement or tucking up in bed together on a stormy night.
Molly, widowed at fifty-two, and now in her seventies frankly says, ‘I’d vomit if another man touched me. When I was young I was brought up to believe that you had one partner for life arid if anything happened to him that was the end of your sex life for good. You just can’t change the sort of ingrained idea that it would be somehow unfaithful to his memory to start seeing someone else. My friends tried to match-make me with any Tom, Dick or Harry but I just wasn’t interested. I found the most difficult time to cope was in bed at night. I would just miss knowing he was lying next to me in the bed. Sometimes even now I wake up and think I can hear him breathing. I was grieving so much at the time that sex was the last thing on my mind. When I started getting over the grief I never seemed to get my interest back. When I get miserable I get by with a hot bath and putting lots of pillows in the bed. I get a lot of affection and love from my daughter and my grandchildren.’