This column may contain strong language, sexual content, adult humor, and other themes that may not be suitable for minors. Parental guidance is strongly advised.
It used to be that to think of grandparents as sexual beings was to veer towards the sacrilegious. Senior citizens were supposed to be beyond all that; sex was something that disappeared with the onslaught of age and the loss of vitality. Menopause made women dry up, the conventional wisdom went, while aging made it difficult for men to get it up. Therefore, the most preferable and peaceful way to exist as a grandparent was to develop some form of amnesia when it came to sex, relegating it to the dustbin of obsolescence.
As the joke goes, an elderly couple are sitting on a park bench one day. The husband says to the wife, “Whatever happened to our sexual relations?” The wife replies, “I don’t know. I don’t even think we got a Christmas card from them this year.”
But times have clearly changed. If 50 is the new 30, then 60 is the new middle age. People in this demographic are healthier, fitter, and more active than ever, and their looks and appetites reflect this state of being.
Today show host Al Roker, who turned 60 in 2014, was quoted as saying, “I really do think 60 today is different from what our parents’ 60 was. I feel like I’m going faster than ever. I think [at] 50, you’re kind of hitting your stride, and I think—all things being equal—at 60, you’re cruising. You literally are cruising now, and if, God willing, your health stays good, you know, you just keep moving till the parts wear out… As you get older, you know inherently that time is going to be compressed. I want to fill that time up with as much positive and as much good as possible.”
Some of them may be grandparents at 60, or even younger, but they’re not accepting invisibility as a way of life. In the Netflix hit series Grace and Frankie, two friends in their 60s, played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, respectively, end up becoming unlikely roommates after their husbands reveal that they are gay and in love with each other. Despite their shock and, initially, anger, and depression at the turn of events, they resolve to continue living life to the fullest. And that includes starting a company called Forever Vybrant to create sex toys and lubes for their own pleasure, as well as that of women of a certain age.
As Mashable explains, the sexagenarians conceptualized, prototyped, and focus-grouped the Ménage à Moi. “It’s a vibrator made for and—perhaps more importantly—marketed to older women, particularly those who have a hard time using traditional models because of their arthritis.”
Their best customer, in fact, loved the vibrator so much that she literally dies with it in her hands, prompting Frankie to call it the “Death Stick.” But instead of blaming Grace and Frankie for creating the murder weapon, the deceased’s family thanks them for giving her so much happiness in her later years.
By choosing not to negate their sexuality, Grace and Frankie discover a new zest for life. They shed the caution and defensiveness that is common after a divorce and embark on relationships, have a few mishaps in the romance department, but eventually take risks and fall in love. Grace, the sophisticate, allows a younger, albeit gorgeous, rich, and successful man into her life, while Frankie, the bohemian, falls for a handsome and gentle man, who happens to be black.
It’s not always smooth-sailing, of course, but the point is that for Grace and Frankie, age is no reason to fade into the background. Age is not an impediment to feeling alive and vital. And if you can still manage it, then by all means have as much sex as you want.
As former Bond Pierce Brosnan, now 65, said, “Some days it rattles and shakes in there psychically, but ultimately I feel nothing but a great gift of life. There’s nothing to prove. I feel comfortable in my own skin.”
And anyone who’s seen Mamma Mia and its sequel can attest to how well Pierce has aged. He’s definitely still getting some action. And why not? Senior citizen sex comes with a host of physical, emotional, and mental benefits. According to the Mirror, “it can make you look younger, combat stress and even stave of dementia; [it’s] a great activity for the over 60s!”
The article quotes Dr. Louise Newsom of the Spire Parkway Hospital in Birmingham as saying, “There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t still have sex right up until you no longer have the physical ability or energy. It bonds you closer to your partner, provides a good cardiovascular workout, and even if you’ve been affected by the menopause, there are many things you can do to boost your libido.”
The fact that people can and do have sex well into their old age also underscores the very human need for connection. In Moonwalk, Michael Chabon’s memoir-as-novel, the widowed grandfather allows himself to be swayed by the charms of Sally Sidel, an attractive neighbor at a retirement complex in Florida.
Their first date does not go well. After a pleasant enough dinner during which he eats crab, he suffers from severe stomach cramps and finds a silly excuse to rush into his own home, promising to be over at her place in a few minutes. He is horrified to realize that she thinks he is giving her the brush-off but cannot, of course, tell her that he urgently needed to empty his bowels.
Finally, he comes over to her place, and an opportune moment presents itself:
“Sally leaned in to kiss him. He got a late start and misjudged her angle of approach. There was an unfortunate encounter between her teeth and his chin. She clapped a hand to her mouth, her cheeks ablaze, and made an adjustment to her dental work.”
It’s not only younger people who have awkward sexual experiences.
They try again, this time in bed, and it’s a disaster that leaves the two people attempting to have sex so devastatingly embarrassed. For one thing, the grandfather is so overwhelmed at the sight of Sally’s naked body, “lavishly freckled and presented without modesty,” that he passes out. When he wakes up, he has a massive erection. But before Sally’s fingers even brush against his skin, he comes. “The spurt was so abrupt and unadvertised that it had the character of a practical joke.”
And yet, Sally turns what must have been a mortifying experience for both into a sweet exchange.
“I’m sorry,” said my grandfather.“Maybe it was a little too soon.”
“Too soon is better than too later, dear.”
“Yeah? What if it’s too soon and too late?”
“Oh, it is,” Sally said. “Definitely. Too soon for that type of talk.”
She sat down on the bed beside him and gave him a brief but perfunctory kiss on the lips. “And too late for backing out now, because I like you.”
They soon settle for a movie, discovering that they share a liking for rum raisin ice cream and a Spencer Tracy.
Indeed, it’s never too late to live, love and laugh, and if your joints are willing, enjoy sex with someone you feel connected to, well into your 80s and even 90s.
Take it from 90-something Betty White: “I may be a senior, but so what? I’m still hot.”
Happy Grandparents Month!
B. Wiser is the author of Making Love in Spanish, a novel published by Anvil Publishing and available in National Book Store and Powerbooks, as well as online. When not assuming her Sasha Fierce alter-ego, she takes on the role of serious journalist and media consultant.
For comments and questions, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.
Art by Marian Hukom
For the latest in culture, fashion, beauty, and celebrities, subscribe to our weekly newsletter here
Stories of sex and scandal in Henry VIII’s reign
Filipina erotica artists on dispelling sex taboos via nudity and raw imagery
Meet the two women who are tackling sex positivity
20 years of Sex and the City taught us to be open about sex and relationships