a publication of the sexuality and aging consortium at widener university

How Old is Too Old for Sexuality Education?

You’re never too old for sexuality education, at least according to the older adults in “Older, Wiser, Sexually Smarter” course taught by Peggy Brick at the University of Delaware’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

When asked to hypothesize on the value of the course after taking it, one student responded, “People will be more likely to view sex more openly and as acceptable for older adults, and find pleasure in whatever level of sex might be available to them.”

Another student hypothesized, “People will become less intercourse- focused and more aware of all the possibilities. People will become more alive and loving.”

As people age, they go through emotional, physical, relationship, and lifestyle changes that may require them to think differently – and perhaps more creatively – about how they can enjoy and express their sexuality.  The sexuality education that one received in high school, from parents, or through experience may not be applicable to this new life stage.

Brick’s students gave permission for some of their questions to be shared, anonymously, after their first evening of class. The breadth of their concerns shows the depth of need for sexuality education for adults in mid and later life.

Older Adults Want to Know…

These questions were submitted by older adults in a sexuality education course.

1. How to overcome fears of true emotional intimacy. My feelings today show me I prefer emotional distance as if I’m afraid to get hurt/laughed at.  Physical closeness I like usually. I enjoy hugs, kisses. We’ve never talked much about what pleases us.

2. How important is a good sexual relationship in a marriage? Can it be good without it?

3. Do men look at a woman’s body in the same way as women look at their bodies?

4. Is it normal for women to masturbate? Or rare?

5. I have been widowed for ten years. Why would I be so hesitant and resist a new sexual partner after all these years? I am both “untrusting” (distrustful) and fearful.

6.Is it unusual for a woman to not want sex with any man she does not have deep feelings for? Men don’t seem to need those deep feelings. Sex is good anyway!

7. A lot of women claim they do not have much intrinsic interest in sex. Should men take them at their word and plunge ahead without many regrets, inhibitions or feelings of guilt?

8.What do you suggest for the sexually obsessed? (Dirty old men, not pedophiles!!!)

9.Is slow rate of male recovery after sex a function of low hormones, brain chemistry, lack of interest, age, or something else (or all of the above).

10. How to increase frequency of intimacy; speaking to help motivation of a spouse; why are “old” turn-ons not as powerful?

11. How to extend man’s potency into later life. What’s most important? I assume brain and willingness is first and health is second. What else?

12. Please address possibility of physical injure to female during clitoral stimulation.

13. Possible side effects of Viagra, etc, on male.

14. Please expand upon Agenda item #4, “warming up for sex in mid and later life.”

15. What is a recommended procedure for approaching the open discussion of sex in mid and later life?

16. Are you going to talk about homosexuality?

17. How to find a woman’s G-spot?

18. What about marriages that were sexless/monastic for 30 years. Is there hope? Inside? Outside?

19. Is it with practice (hard practice?) one must learn a new script? Do you think having an open mind comes first/but what if you don’t have a partner?

20. Is too much masturbation not good for you?

21. Why must everything be so much work? (esp. for women, men don’t want to take the time, so it’s so much easier to fake it.)

22. How do you deal with a spouse who tells you he/she is no longer interest in sex but still want to watch porn, read porn, etc.?

23. Men need sex, women need love to have great sex. True or False?

24. Who needs to start talking about sex if your husband thinks it’s only for having babies?

25. What turns men on?

26. How can a woman feel love if her husband/partner is impotent?

27. Is foreplay as important as the act?

28. Communication is the key to a great relationship and sex. True or False?

29. Why do men want to just climax and turn over, fall asleep and forget their wives/partner?

30. What and how can women have better orgasms?

31. Can you speak to the difficulty of getting used to a new partner when you come from a very conservative sexual script and been widowed in mid-50s?

32. How do I deal with the different directions we have grown up in? Not liking some of my husband’s beliefs and behaviors is interfering with any warm feelings that I might have toward him. I just feel too angry and annoyed so much of the time. I say this realizing the probably I am the one who has changed!

33. Discuss extramarital sex in mid and later life. Particularly: If your partner/spouse emphatically does not want sex and you do, how can couples successfully negotiate or live with infidelity? If 50% of women do not have partners after a certain age, why does half the population have to be celibate? How can long term marriage change in later life with extra-                marital sex and not end in costly divorce? Love to know how women and men see this.

34. Is it normal for semen to decrease greatly or stop as we age?

35. For most, is oral sex a satisfactory replacement for genital sex?

36. How do I get my partner to not over direct sexual activity? Or, how to be more spontaneous.

37. What about someone who is not your wife, if you are still married but your wife is not interested anymore? (And has not been for some time and is not interested in either counseling, separation or a divorce.) I guess I am looking for a friend w/benefits.

38. How to avoid STDs.

39. Impact on sexuality by religious teachings.

40. How do you address the decline in hormones (in females) when hormones (pharmaceutical) are not recommended any longer.

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