Toasted teacakes and orthopadeic slippers are definitely out for the
new generation of silver partygoers
November 30, 2008
Forget about careful driving and wide-fitting shoes life today is
miles more stimulating for baby-boomers. They're healthier and
happier and longer-living than any of their predecessors and, having
made it into their sixties with their libido more or less intact,
have no intention of going slow in the bedroom. Helped by Viagra and
a more relaxed, horizontal approach to relationships and marriage, it
seems that double chins, love handles and bingo wings are no longer a
turn-off. With children having flown the nest and plenty of savings
to splash out, 60 is suddenly sexy. Throw in Joan Bakewell's
appointment as "tsar for the elderly", Helen Mirren in a red-hot
bikini and Carmen Dell'Orefice still modelling at a glamorous 77, you
can see why Sagazoners Saga Zone is a sort of Facebook for
grown-ups are chatting so explicitly online. In fact, a recent
survey by the website found that two-thirds of men and women aged
60-64 said they were still sexually active, with almost half of those
getting between the sheets at least once a week. It also buried a
widely touted myth, with three-quarters claiming that sex does not
become more boring as you get older.
Pam, 63, is typical: "If I am honest and I generally am sex is
just as important to me now as it ever was, and, joy of joys, I can't
get pregnant!" Joy agrees: "Even though we all grow older, it
shouldn't bar us from a bit of rumpy-pumpy, should it?" Likewise
Willy: "I would rather be on my own than in a sexless marriage
frustration is a terrible thing."
It is not only sex that the older generation is so wholeheartedly
embracing they're behaving in every way like born-again teens. Emma
Soames, Saga magazine's editor-at-large, reports that during a
Leonard Cohen concert in the Albert Hall earlier this month, "when he
sang, 'If you want a doctor, I'll examine every inch of you', there
were audible yelps from the crowd. He's 74", she says. "The myth that
once you hit 60 your life is over is well and truly dead. At this
age, there is less pressure and it's likely that you feel more
comfortable about your body."
A spring chicken at 90, the writer Diana Athill concurs. "To me, 60
seems rather young," she says with a dry chuckle. "I certainly
enjoyed sex in my seventies. Eventually I lost the urge, but I've
known many others who went on for a lot longer." Famous for growing
old disgracefully, she detailed her colourful adventures in her
recent autobiography, Somewhere Towards the End, in which she writes
about several affairs with married men, including a ménage à trois.
Suburban dinner parties between consenting pensioners are also
witnessing an increase in the use of soft W drugs. And that's not
all. A London dentist reports how his wife began to feel distinctly
uncomfortable when, after plenty of wine and a few after-dinner
joints, an innocent-looking parlour game in the Cotswolds turned into
a full-on strip-fest. "The hostess, who was just into her sixties,
couldn't wait to show off her new boob job and had her top off as
fast as a bride's nightie," says Robert, 57, whose wife, Jane, 52,
had feigned illness and gone to bed in a state of shock. "That left
me, two other straight couples and two gays. The boys whipped their
trousers off straightaway, which was pretty scary stuff. I'm not
proud of my body I don't even expose that much when I'm holiday
so I stayed up long enough to be polite, then joined Jane in bed
while I still had my boxers."
Among older people, attitudes to misbehaviour are certainly changing.
October saw the publication of Groovy Old Men: A Spotter's Guide, by
Nick Baker, 56. "It's a state of mind," he says. "They have a huge
back catalogue of film, music and style references and like to pick
and choose they love Amy Winehouse and see her as the new Dusty
Springfield." Now these men have "reached their sixties and they
don't give a shit", says Baker, who counts Bill Nighy, Bryan Ferry
and Paul Smith among their number. "Not trying too hard is the crux.
If you are, then you're definitely not a Groovy Old Man." For Baker,
"there is no question that an older generation is in its ascendancy
and older men are able to enjoy themselves in the bedroom. Because of
Viagra, which looks after the mechanics, it's now about choice. Age
no longer matters".
It's not all just good fun, however. Because older couples have no
fear of pregnancy and are of the pre-Aids, free-love generation, few
give unprotected sex a second thought. Thus the big fly in the
ointment is sexually transmitted infections, which have tripled in
the over-65s in the past six years. Some find that they have picked
up something rather unpleasant in their retirement.
So an increasing number of them can be found hiding behind their
newspapers in waiting rooms at STI clinics with the symptoms of
chlamydia, syphilis and genital warts. Syphilis has tripled among the
over-65s and doubled in the 35-64 age group. Chlamydia has also
risen, by 51% in 35- to 64-year-olds and by 37% in over-65s.
Dr Eoghan MacSweeney is medical director at CityDoc, a private
healthcare service in London and Birmingham. "I saw someone over 60
this morning whose lack of understanding was frightening," he says.
MacSweeney believes that sex education should not merely be for the
young. "Marriage is not the same institution it once was, and older
people have become more laissez faire when it comes to relationships.
Viagra is partly responsible, but there has been a twist in sexual behaviour."
Moreover, the resumption of youthful practices does not suit
everyone. "Half of \ prescriptions are not repeated," says Val
Sampson, a couples councillor and author of Tantra: The Art of
Mind-Blowing Sex. The initial thrill of the pill may be great, but
"what it doesn't do is sort out relationships, and if you've not had
penetrative sex for a decade, resuming at the drop of a hat can come
as a shock. Mutual pleasure is so not about wham, bam, thank you ma'am".
Which, one might argue, is something they're old enough to know.
What's sex really like when you're older?
Susan*, 61, is in a relationship with a man in his sixties "I was
married for a long time, but it wasn't good sexually. Since it ended
16 years ago, I've been making up for lost time. At my age your
inhibitions go out the window it's great. I'm not worried about
what people think any more: I'm my own person. I enjoy sex now and
need it more than ever. My boyfriend has to use Viagra sometimes it
works, sometimes it doesn't. I do other things when he's not around,
too: thank God for the Rabbit."
Agony aunt Irma Kurtz, 73, is single. "With age, sex becomes less
pressing you might say more cuddly. Nature is no longer agitating
for reproduction and the competitive thrust among men especially has
a dare I say softer edge. Better than ever? No. Just the fruit of
a different season. Where love remains, the sex remains, too. But out
and out cruising for it and obsessing about it is for the young. For
the first time, on moving house recently, I bought a single bed. I
have always believed it is easier to give up those things we have
enjoyed fully, so I do not miss sex. Just as when I gave up smoking
long ago, I found the day had more hours in it."
Irma Kurtz's new book, About Time: Growing Old Disgracefully (John
Murray £16.99), is published on March 5
Tom*, early seventies. Divorced 13 years ago, he has been dating
since. "We grew up in a much more repressed age. The sexual
revolution passed me by I was busy trying to get on with my life
and make money. Now, I don't think sex in your seventies is different
from sex at any other age. You hear people saying 50 is the new 30.
When my grandmother was 60 she was an old lady. Women my age today
aren't old ladies they can be extremely attractive. Dress and hair
colouring have a great deal to do with it."
Wendy Salisbury, 62, has married and divorced twice, and has been
dating since her forties. "A couple of decades ago, if someone was
alone at 60, that would be it for them. But now single old people are
dating more than their children do. We all still want love, and the
love of family and friends is wonderful, but it's not the same as
romantic love. We embrace sex, talk about it, think about it.
Everything ages, except feelings. It's our children who are
embarrassed, not us. Internet dating has made it possible to keep
dating I meet men there and in the normal quarters of life, such as
estate agents or policemen. Sixty is a new lease of life."
Wendy Salisbury is the author of The Toyboy Diaries (Old Sreet £7.99)
Nick*, 66, has been dating for the past 30 years after his two
marriages broke down. "As you get older you become more confident
about yourself and learn to make the most of it. My last long-term
relationship was phenomenally active. We had sex every day it was
like being a 25-year-old. The woman I am dating now is five years
younger than me, but has a phenomenal figure and we make love every
time we stay over together. If I'm with someone I really want, I have
no physical problems."
Michael*, 59, a widower, is about to marry a woman he met on Friends
Reunited. "When I was young, sex was a question of quantity rather
than quality. After marriage, it became routine, and, with the advent
of children, less frequent. The stresses of time, work, money and
kids are not conducive to a wonderful love life. Then there was my
wife's long illness and no sex at all for years. After her death, I
went onto Friends Reunited Dating. I didn't expect to find a new
partner, but, amazingly, that is what happened. I think about sex
more now than at any time since my teens and early twenties."
* Names have been changed