THE BLOG

Healthy Aging and Sex

04/12/2013 06:47 pm ET | Updated Jun 12, 2013

Sex is a hot topic and most American women are very open and honest about their sexuality. The normal aging process doesn't seem to impede sexual desire, either. There's a common misconception that as women age, they lose interest in sex. But a new University of California-San Francisco study shows that is not the case for most women. The desire is there and it is something that should be nurtured.

Thanks to the character of Samantha Jones in "Sex and the City," played with supreme confidence by the beautiful Kim Cattrall, and real-life women such as Helen Mirren and Suzanne Somers, getting older and still enjoying a healthy sex life is a taken-for-granted right. You would think that in the year 2013 in the 21st century, the topic of desiring and enjoying sex wouldn't be a taboo issue, but the reality is that for some older women in America, it is. They feel an embarrassment that they still have sexual desires and view sexual activity past a certain age as somehow wrong.

That's a shame, because having a sexual relationship is something that not only adds to our overall physical health, it is a major contributing factor to our happiness. The intimacy of two human beings, the caressing hands, the kisses, the titillating fact that you are completely nude with another person, is a beautiful gift. Women's sexual health, like men's, is important to overall emotional and physical well-being.

We weren't born without desires and most of those desires change very little over time. Desires for food and drink, warmth, human interaction, etc., are normal desires Our budding sexuality and the need to explore it comes right along with puberty and brings with it another desire; the desire for sexual satisfaction. That desire, if heeded and catered to, rarely goes away and that is as it should be. We don't lose our other desires, why should we lose the innate desire for sex or be shy about wanting it? Good sexual partners, and good communication with your partner, help to keep the fire going.

So why do some women feel that after "a certain age," sex is no longer an important part of their lives? Quite a lot of it depends on their early years of conditioning and what women were taught about sex. Sex, including masturbation, was seen as "naughty" or not "proper" for girls brought up in the '50s and part of the '60s. Teenage sex was something "bad" girls did, married sex was mostly for procreation, and women past menopause were certainly not supposed to have any interest in "it" at all. Some antiquated, erroneous religious teachings about woman's sexuality may also contribute to some older women embarrassed feelings.

Sex is not is not simply designed for a youth-oriented culture. Women well past 60 should discuss sexual desires openly with their friends, partners and doctors, and accept it as natural and normal. If medical help is needed to enhance sexual enjoyment, it is encouraged and given without question.

The idea that a woman of 50 or older is still wanting and needing sex is nothing to be embarrassed about. (A little side bar here: Society doesn't necessarily find it embarrassing that men in those age groups are still sexually active; women deserve equal treatment in that area.)

Many changes occur in our lives as we age and certainly, physical changes are a natural part of life. What shouldn't change is what gives us pleasure even if we have to tweak how we get that pleasure. A person who has enjoyed being a runner all her young adult life can still enjoy running even if it is at a slower pace. The joy that art of running gives you should not be discarded simply because you are older. You can still do it, just a bit more leisurely and with better running shoes! Except for the shoes, it is the same with sex. A bit slower, a bit more intense, sure, but just as pleasurable.

If you are a woman who feels that your sexual life is a thing of the past, try to discover why you feel this way. Is it physical? If so, make an appointment with your doctor for a full check-up and don't be shy about bringing up the topic of sex. Have your partner meet with a doctor, a urologist, if his desire seems to be waning. There's help available. One little caveat: If either doctor in any way dismisses your questions or treats your questions as if they are not important, or is condescending in any way, find another doctor!

Were you conditioned to think there's something embarrassing about desiring sex after a certain age? Discuss this with a good friend, doctor, or even a therapist. Don't deny yourself a pleasure that is good for you physically and mentally simply because you feel you're "too old". We are sexual beings from birth.

Pay attention to your fantasies and sexual energy. Don't disregard them or push those feelings aside. You can enjoy fantasize at any age and imagination is the greatest sex toy we have. Use it often!

Above all, be honest with yourself. Do you not feel good about yourself in general? What changes would you like to make in your life? What goals would make you a happier person? Your mental attitude and how you live your life can make you a more confident person in all ways.

© 2013 copyright Kristen Houghton

Kristen Houghton is the author of the hilarious book, No Woman Diets Alone -- There's Always a Man Behind Her Eating a Doughnut. It is in the top 10 hot new releases at Amazon and is available now on Kindle, Nook and all e-book venues.

You may email her at kch@kristenhoughton.com.