Senior Years and Intimacy

(Sreenath H S)

Grey Matters

Issues of interest to senior people

The senior population in India is steadily rising. Unlike in the west, where the state takes responsibility for the welfare of the elderly people, the elderly in India have to fend for themselves. Of course, the traditional Indian joint family system and, to some extent, traditional Indian social values do come to the aid of these people in India and make up for total lack of support from Government.

But a host of factors such as nuclear families, rising affluence of senior citizens, the desire among the elderly for independence and personal space have, of late, prompted senior people to opt for specialized senior communes, where their needs are taken care of by dedicated service providers. These communes also, at the same time, provide them with the much-needed companionship that is sadly lacking in regular residential developments. This blog discusses various issues that matter to and affect senior people. The author of this blog Sreenath H S is the promoter of Sree Senior Homes that develop luxury retirement communes in Karnataka, and promote senior communities in India and provide senior care.

Sreenath H S is also a published author and a public speaker. His published works include Sir. M Visvesvaraya – His Economic Contribution and Thought, Partition and other Divisive Issues, Secularism and National Identity and a numerous essays on topics ranging from literature to litterateurs, law and architecture.

Senior Years and Intimacy

Intimacy is not necessarily physical. It can be also be emotional and intellectual. This blog post, however, largely focuses on physical intimacy. In the land of Khajuraho and Kamasutra, sex is still a taboo, and it is nothing short of a sacrilege to discuss it, in the context of senior years. Somehow, senior years in India are associated with ritualistic, theistic religion. I, as one who is building and managing Sharadindu, a senior commune, have seen this proclivity among senior people for religion and rituals. While there is nothing wrong in being religious or ritualistic, there is, however, something morbid in thinking that it is immoral to be anything other than ritualistic and to go around with an imaginary halo of holiness, just because one spends one’s time mostly in activities associated with one’s religious beliefs. This tendency towards rituals is, in my observation, more pronounced among women than among men.

With rapid advances in medical sciences, development of newer and more effective drugs, and increase in disposable incomes among the elderly, the average life expectancy in India, especially among the well-to-do sections of society, has steeply increased, in the last couple of decades, and, as a wag put it, 80 is the new 60, and 60 is the new 40. This is not to suggest that old people’s sex life can be as vigorous and active as it was when they were young. Old age comes with its share of medical issues. Chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes and arthritis, and drugs for these conditions do impact sex drive, adversely. In addition, decrease in testosterone, a hormone that is responsible for sex drive in both men and women, does result in decreased libido.

But senior years also come with advantages. Senior people are no longer beset with the pressures of work place and the onerous responsibilities of raising a family. They are free of financial worries and fear of pregnancy. They have a lot of time on their hands. With these advantages, they can now take a relook at relationships and forge deeper bonds with their partners. Sharing each other’s interests, spending time together in common activities like reading, walking, cooking and watching movies, they can now discover a closeness with their partners, which had eluded them earlier. Circumstances are now conducive to greater physical intimacy. 

Sex in senior years is a desirable thing. Besides being pleasurable, it enhances physical well-being, self-esteem and overall health. Many studies have conclusively established that senior couple having active sex life generally become and stay emotionally fulfilled, mentally agile and physically active. They, however, have to recognize obvious limitations of senior years, and find ways to work around them. Here are a few tips that may be of help.

Get rid of inhibitions

Indian society is hugely hypocritical, when it comes to matters of sex. We resent any discussion on sex and related issues, in public, but watch unhealthy porn flicks on the net, in private; we restrict the freedom of our children to mix freely with the opposite sex, there by hindering the development of a healthy attitude towards sex and gender relations, but accept, as natural, ogling and groping on trains and buses. A friend of mine, who is a senior police officer, once told me that the number of old men frequenting sex workers is as large as the number of younger men visiting them, yet we frown upon some harmless valentine day celebration, and condemn it as something that is against our culture. These distortions color our attitude towards all matters related to sex and sexuality, and we carry them well into our old age. The first thing, therefore, senior people have to do is to get rid of this distorted view on sexual issues, and learn to discuss them openly both with their partners and, if necessary, with health professionals.

Make it a habit.

Vaginal dryness, greater time for arousal, inability to maintain a firm erection may come in the way of having a fulfilling sex life in silver years. But considering the immense benefits of sex, both phsycological and physiological, senior people should talk to their doctors to find ways to overcome these limitations, and make sex a habit. Frequent sex results in higher libido and overall health.

Focus less on intercourse and more on outercourse

Sex does not have to be intercourse always. There is something called outercourse. Open and frank discussion on what is painful and what is pleasurable, touch, mutual stimulation can result in a far bigger orgasm and satisfaction than actual intercourse.

Try different positions

Senior couple should not let their bodily aches to affect their sex life. They should use their long years of sexual experience to figure out positions – missionary, spoonning, chair or whatever else – that suit them best, and give them greater satisfaction. Experimentation is the key.

Consult your doctor

Have a frank discussion with your GP about our sexual fears and problems, and get his professional help.

Stay Fit

Staying physically fit and mentally agile is a prerequisite for satisfying sex. While regular brisk walks, moderate exercises, regular health checkups and timely intake of medicines keep senior people physically fit, group activities like board games, group initiatives like travel and plays, hobbies like writing, photography and carpentry keep them mentally agile.

Senior years do not have to be joyless and bleak. They can be fulfilling and full of fun.

Suggested reading:

The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability: For All of Us Who Live with Disabilities, Chronic Pain, and Illness by Miriam Kaufman, Cory Silverberg, and Fran Odette

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