Her mastectomy two years ago after contracting breast cancer hasn’t changed her self-image as a sexual being, primarily because Wellborn has had a lifelong positive attitude towards sexuality.
They also note that the biological changes associated with aging are less pronounced and sexuality is less affected if sexual activity is constant throughout life.
Wellborn and her husband were deeply in love, she says. After the children left home and her husband retired, the couple had more freedom to express their sexuality.
“I expect to make love as long as I can,” she says. “I see no reason not to, and I see all kinds of reason why I should. If you’ve had a good loving man and a good sexual life, you’ll miss it terribly if you stop. I’ve had everything from a cancer operation to shingles, and I’m still sexually active.”
Wellborn’s openness about sex — and the frequency with which she has enjoyed it — may be somewhat unusual, but her perspective is not. One advantage of growing older is that personal relationships can take on increased importance as children and careers take a backseat. And while some seniors may be forced to give up strenuous sports, sex is a physical pleasure many older people readily enjoy.
A clear majority of men and women age 45 and up say a satisfying sexual relationship is important to the quality of life, according to a survey by the AARP (the organization formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons). Nearly two-thirds said they were interested in sex, and more than 40% of Americans 65 to 80 are sexually active, according to a 2018 survey.
She says that she and her husband had sex three to four times a week when the children lived at home; once they were alone they made love almost every day
Similar findings emerged in a survey conducted by the National Council on the Aging (NCOA). The study found that nearly half of all Americans age 60 or over have sex at least once a month and that nearly half also wanted to have sex more frequently. Another finding: people find their mates more physically attractive over time.
As for making love, it just gets better with age, according to Cornelia Spindel, who married her husband Gerald when she was 72. They met when Gerry Spindel took his wife, who was dying of Alzheimer’s, to a kosher nutrition program where Cornelia, a widow, worked as a volunteer. The two gradually became close friends, and after his wife’s death, became intimate. When Gerald proposed, she accepted with pleasure. Now, Cornelia said, “We feel like young lovers or newlyweds. I felt like I was able to make love better when I was 30 than when I was 20, and now I have a whole lifetime of experience.”
Her husband agreed, and dislikes the patronizing attitude many people display toward older people who are intimate. “Whenever people ask us how long we’ve been married, we say ‘two years,’ and they say, ‘Oh, that’s so cute.’ We’re ‘cute?!’ What does that mean?”
Both men and women can expect normal physiological changes as they age that may affect the way they experience sex. Experts say these changes are not usually a barrier to enjoying a healthy sex life, but couples may have to take more time for arousal.
Seniors can devote more time and energy to improving their love lives
Postmenopausal women, for example, have lower levels of the hormone estrogen, which in turn decreases vaginal lubrication and elasticity. In many cases, dryness can be relieved by something as simple as using a water-based lubricant like KY Jelly. Doctors can offer other remedies for more difficult cases.