The most important determining factor regarding positive sexual expression as we age is the attitude that women hold. Our attitude about our bodies and how we perceive ourselves sexually is influenced by everything from our feelings, experiences and self-reflection. The changes you experience don’t necessarily mean that the body is broken or defective.
Clinical viewpoints vs. media viewpoints
Menopause and midlife changes are no longer viewed as barriers to the sexual expression of women. It is just a predictable consequence of aging, but it is really folklore that decreased physical intimacy. There are many options now, both hormonal and non-hormonal, that help maintain tissue integrity and lubrication in order to support the physiological processes involved in the sexual response, something that needs to be done even after menopause.
It is an important aspect of sexual health to continue to engage in sexual activity. This is not limited to sexual intercourse but also includes self-pleasuring and orgasm. This is relevant, since the longer life expectancy for women overall can result in lack of a sexual partner. Studies show that at least half of healthy women over age 60 engage in self-stimulation.
The more that sexual response is stimulated, the better it works. It also holds true that more sexual expression for women results in an improved libido and arousal response. Satisfying physical intimacy is a positive reinforcer to create added bonding and more gratifying intimacy. This mechanism works on all physical levels — neurochemical, vascular and hormonal.
Unfortunately, there is no place in the media that women can look to in order to normalize sexual desires and needs as we get older. It is almost unheard of to hear about the sexuality of a postmenopausal woman. We live in a youth and beauty obsessed culture that rarely portrays older women as anything but nurturing and wise caregivers. If we look at ads in magazines, we see older woman as obsessed and visibly insecure about body image and physical attractiveness. Aging women should relish their lifetime accumulation of experience and wisdom.
Intimacy in relationships
As relationships change for women later in life, so do the effects on sexual functioning and satisfaction — especially for couples in long-term relationships. Ideally, there is an enhancement of intimacy through facets other than physical. Others find a sexual discovery of deep connection and different meaning than they knew in their youth. Partners that understand each other and can connect on a deeper level enjoy sexuality together through forms of sensual, spiritual and playful intimacy.
Finding your sexual bliss
We are never too old to feel pleasure. Older women have been socialized to believe that having sexual desires and needs is wrong. There is an absence of what a healthy sexuality later in life should look like. This prevents women from identifying and acting upon their own sexual desires and needs.
However, as we age, we gain sexual wisdom and body attunement with our desires, wants and needs. There is an increase in sexual self-esteem, self-perceptions and relational possibilities. We need to embrace the changes brought on by years of life and be intentional about connecting and bonding with ourselves and our partners.