Exploring Sex and Aging

(l-r) Aging bodies moderator Crystal Brown talked with Kimberlee Reece of NE Wellness; Zeynep Tuzcu, founder of Evren Chiropractic; and Carolyn Torkelson, retired women’s health specialist at the University of Minnesota.

Minnesota Women’s Press hosted panel discussions about “Sex, Menopause, and Aging Bodies” in April, moderated by the magazine’s sexuality writer Gaea Dill-D’Ascoli and outreach director Crystal Brown.

Q: As our bodies change, it can impact our sexual relationships. How do we talk about that and get away from feeling like there is a goal to reach, or dismay that we aren’t feeling the same physically?

Lindsey Hoskins, health education, Family Tree Clinic: Good sex is about being good at communication. It’s not about how big anything is or where you put it. I love this recipe from sex educator Reid Mihalko for having a difficult conversation:

1) I’ve got something I want to talk to you about. 2) I’m nervous to talk to you about it because … 3) What I hope happens is … 4) Then you say what you need to say.

I also highly recommend pelvic floor physical therapy. The muscles in the pelvic area are small, so even a little exercise is a lot. Orgasm feelings are dependent on the strength of those muscles sometimes. The beefier those muscles are, the stronger and easier it is to experience orgasm. Toning those muscles can make a huge difference.

And orgasm doesn’t have to be a goal. Learning to enjoy pleasures large and small, and without a goal, leads to greater satisfaction.

If you’ve got aches and pains in your body — your hips hurt or you can’t lie on your back anymore — talk to a good pelvic floor physical therapist. There’s a lot of referred pain in the pelvis; something hurts over here, but the cause is there.

AJ, psychotherapist, Rainbow Health:

Open up space to talk about sex that isn’t just in the bedroom. Have regular relationship check-ins, when you can talk about a variety of issues. The acronym I suggest is RADAR: Review the amount of time of since your last check in, Agree on the agenda of what you want to talk about, Discuss, name Action steps, and Reconnect after a hard conversation.

Remember that sex is about exploring each other’s bodies and your own body. Maybe there’s room for parallel masturbation or different forms of touch. Sex is expansive, and it can look different ways as we age.

People over the age of 55 have the fastest- growing rate of sexually transmitted illness (STI) in the U.S. The younger age groups are more likely to have an STI, but the older generations are more likely to contract one due to decline in practicing safe sex. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2019 that the number of cases in the previous five years among Americans aged 55 and older rose 164 percent for gonorrhea, 120 percent for syphilis, and 86 percent for chlamydia.

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