November 2021
Let's Talk About Sexual Health
by
Hedda Fay

Aging: Rolling with the Changes

This week a friend sent me a meme that said, “dating after 40 is like trying to find the least damaged thing at a thrift store that doesn’t smell.” I giggled, and then went, “Ouch.”

Asa married woman over 50, I no longer need to “date.” But what about the rest of the implication in the silly meme? Damaged, smelly, none of which is age-applicable — there is still some prejudice about sex as we age.

Sex does change as we age, physically, mentally, and emotionally. For starters, our pheromones and hormones change, affecting everyone. When I experienced menopause I happily donated the myriad vaginal-hygiene products and overpriced cotton items to my friends and neighbors. No more seeing Aunt Flo in my house! What a change! Afterward it was harder for my vagina to self-lubricate, even while aroused. My provider sat my husband and me down and explained that, for my vagina to lubricate, we needed more foreplay. My honey was thrilled with the idea of extra time with my “fun bags” and bits.

My desire for sex diminished slightly, which is normal, while the skin and walls of my vagina thinned and slightly narrowed. As we age our bodies produce less of the hormones that help support our integumentary system. Estrogen helps keep our skin tight and healthy ,and assists with elastin and collagen production. As we age, our skin all over begins to thin with the loss of this hormone, and it takes longer for the vagina to naturally lubricate itself.

As we age we care less about what others think, and learn to appreciate more about ourselves. We are all naked or in a state of undress with ourselves daily. How often do we check ourselves out and take a personal inventory of our naked bodies, front and back? One of my favorite comedians, Mo’Nique, asked the reader in one of her books, “when was the last time you took a personal inventory of yourself naked?” My goodness, I see myself every day! What on earth is she referencing? I thought about it and, aside from makeup applications, I was not really looking at all of me.

Right then and there, in my bathroom I stripped, got my compact out and checked myself out naked in the mirror. This one act has helped me accept and love myself where I am at in my own aging process. Every wrinkle, dimple, scar and bruise I can face and accept as part of myself. Being naked and comfortable with ourselves as we age helps us to be comfortable and confident while naked with a partner, hookup, etc. As we age our skin loosens. Sometimes we develop expression lines and wrinkles in places we are not expecting. My perkier breasts sit lower on my chest, and you know what, it’s okay!

As we age our desire for intimacy of different sorts increases. The need to feel close to people and enhance connections is strong. My knees occasionally snap and pop when moving, and my boudoir acrobatics are not what they once were. But with some adaptations to accommodate my physical changes, they can be every bit as fulfilling. Expressing our sexuality is more than the lowest common denominator. It involves different types of touching and genital stimulation. This can happen with yourself, or you can share it with someone else. Sex and orgasms are good for us. They help relax the central nervous system and our minds, burn calories, and masturbation is a form of self-care.

As women we are often judged by our appearances first and character somewhere after that. We are beautiful as we age. Our lines show we have laughed and experienced joy. Those “crow’s feet” are from smiling a lot, and have more to do with expression than being an “old bird.”

So find joy in your newfound wisdom, and allow yourself to experience and love whatever type of sex life brings you happiness today. Embrace your aging process and sexuality. Protection from sexually transmitted bacteria and viruses is as important at 50+ as it was at19 — hey I don’t make the rules, these infections don’t discriminate.

Remember, the only thing you should get from a great orgasm is a fond memory!

Hedda Fay, the Community Outreach and Program Manager of Northland Cares, answers your questions about sex and sexual health.