Let’s start with the basics: Some of the important components of a great sex life are the same things that go into a healthy lifestyle. Getting enough sleep at night, eating a proper diet with the right nutrients, and engaging in regular physical exercise should all be part of your routine if you want to keep things going smoothly in the bedroom.
Of course, nothing is ever that simple, and you might worry that sex after 60 won’t deliver the same satisfaction that it did when you were younger. Good news! “People in their 60s are the population reporting the greatest sexual experiences,” says Helen Wyatt, LMFT, a relationship and sex therapist at the Center for Modern Relationships in Chicago.
Wyatt offers four essential tips for making sex over 60 the best it’s ever been, starting with prioritizing the issue. “Sex—the doing, the educating, the reframing, the noticing, and the communicating—takes intentionality and effort,” she says. “You have to value sexuality to make sex more pleasurable.” Read on to find out more.
READ THIS NEXT: If You’re Over 65, Never Do These 4 Things on a Hot Day, CDC Says.
Wyatt describes a linear model of sex—kissing, touching, taking clothes off, oral sex, intercourse, and orgasm—and recommends people put that notion aside. “We need to center pleasure, rather than orgasm,” Wyatt says, explaining that “pleasure is the measure of a great sexual experience, and when we center pleasure, we can think circularly.”
Psychology Today cautions that this linear model of sex “ignores sexual desire” and necessitates an orgasm, which the site says is unrealistic: “It is entirely physiological with no mention of relationship factors, cultural attitudes, or any other external contributors that may be crucial when considering sexual response.”
By mixing up that linear model of sex, we can “engage in, stop, pivot to, increase, and decrease taboo or risky sexual expressions,” says Wyatt. “As long as it keeps pleasure centered, you’re going to have a better, more connected, less anxiety-provoking sexual experience.”
“Our senses are the most direct line to pleasure and engagement in sexual expression,” Wyatt says. “Sex is about so much more than just the act—we have many reasons to be sexual!” Those reasons can be about feeling connected, powerful, or submissive, and to repair trust and help resolve stress, she says. Also? “Sometimes you just straight up have interest.”
Prevention suggests leaning into your senses by taking things slowly. “Take your time,” the site says. “Remember that foreplay can happen at dinner as you engage the senses of sight, smell, and taste [and] if you listen to music and brush up against your partner while you cook, you also engage the senses of sound and touch.”
“Whatever reason you have sex, think about why you want it, what you want to feel, what you want your partner(s) to feel, and why things feel pleasurable or not,” explains Wyatt. “Once you’ve noticed, you’ll have some options for those times when you can’t express yourself sexually in your favorite way.”
Wyatt cautions that many people over the age of 60 didn’t get a thorough sex education. “They got a sex education that was steeped in cultural mythology, patriarchal foundations, and straight up incorrect science,” she says.
Wyatt believes learning about our bodies can help inform a better sex life, “especially about how sexuality looks throughout our lifespan,” she says. “For instance, did you know that certain lubricants”—often needed by women during menopause—”actually contribute to damaging and thinning the vaginal lining? Or that a penis is a porous organ and eats up moisture?”
Wyatt also advises that “We don’t need erections to be sexual. We don’t need an orgasm for a sexual experience to be complete or successful.”
For more health news sent directly to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Finding help outside the bedroom can mean many different things, from finding a sex therapist to reading up on the topic. Wyatt recommends the books Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski, and Magnificent Sex by Peggy Kleinplatz and A. Dana Ménard.
“There are a number of ways to find a good sex therapist,” WebMD advises. “First ask those in the counseling business whose professional ethics usually guarantee confidentiality: a pastor, for instance, or a current or former general therapist, or a physician.” The site notes that sexual problems can be the result of a medical condition or side effects of medication, and suggests that you check in with a physician first: “Having a medical evaluation first to rule out physical causes for your sexual problems can save you time and minimize angst.”
A couples massager is another way to bring in outside assistance, advises Prevention. “Sex becomes more about the journey and less about the destination,” advises the site. And communication about sex is key, reminds Wyatt. “You need to talk about it!”