Assisted Loving: Shaking things up
Ginger Manley | May 30, 2012, 10:54 a.m.
Okay, we've been reading your column, and we attended your lecture series, and now we need some specifics. What are some things we can do that won't kill us and aren't so out there that the neighbors will call the police? In other words, how can we shake things up at our stage of life?
Melvin and Carol
Dear Melvin and Carol,
Thanks for giving me an opportunity to expand upon what I wrote in last month’s column (“Assisted Loving: Communication is Key to Better Love Life,” Mature Lifestyles, May 2012). I’m laughing out loud to read your question, partially because I think it will resonate with so many folks and partially because I think you have already started to “shake things up” just by asking. Remember, silence is the greatest risk to sexual well-being, and you two are obviously not being silent, either between yourselves or now with the readers of this column. Remember also that sexual activity at this stage of life is for recreation—if you’re not having fun, then change is way overdue.
Recently I had the pleasure of reading several books which were nominated for the annual “best new book” award given annually by AASECT (American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists), the credentialing body of professional sexologists. This year’s winning book is Naked at our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex (Seal Press, 2011) by Joan Price. According to the back cover, Naked “spares no detail in addressing the challenges and joys of pursuing love and sex late in life….(and) covers everything that the over-sixty set needs to know about living a more fulfilling sensual life.” Much as I have done in this column, Price uses actual questions and stories from a wide variety of seniors and she has solicited input from several sexuality experts, so this is a comprehensive book. While in the process of writing the book, Price’s husband, who she describes as the love of her life, died from the effects of several kinds of cancer. As a part of her writing, she shares the agony of being alone and the beginning regrowth of her sensual and sexual self with a voice that will speak to millions of people.
Over the next few columns, I am going to use material from this book to give some specifics that may work for many of you. The author does not hold back—what she writes is extremely important for senior sexuality but up until now such detail has not been a part of the day-to-day dialogue for most people. Mature Lifestyles probably cannot publish all the specifics with the degree of description that Price has done, so I urge you to purchase the book and read it from the source. You can also go to Price’s blog, www.nakedatourage.com, to participate in ongoing conversations about sex and aging with her and elders worldwide.
In her first chapter, Price covers some of the topics I have recently also covered—talking, using props to ease painful joints, using appropriate lubrication, and the challenges to sexual function that come with age or illness. The chapter concludes with a lovely story from 87-year old Harry, who describes re-inventing his love-life with his wife of over 60 years, after having gone through “courtship, marriage, open marriage, raising a family, remote marriage (including his having casual affairs), and now courtship again….Getting an erection at my age requires the cooperation of my wife, and I am still working on getting her to touch my penis…It takes endearments, kissing, and affection, as well as time together talking over the past….going through our memories about when we met and how we got to know each other. It was enough then to lead to intimacy, and it still is.” (p. 25)
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