Episode Seven: Sexual Desire And Dating After 50
Like it or not, we’re all getting older. This episode looks at how folks in their 50s and beyond are navigating their changing bodies, relationships and sex lives. Can talking more openly about menopause, divorce and the human need for desire at any age allow us all to experience more joy in the aging process?
Why is menopause still a mystery?
While many people can name hot flashes as a symptom of menopause, there is not much open conversation about the many other physical and emotional side effects of this period of life for people with ovaries. Menopause and perimenopause happen at different times for everyone, and according to obstetrician Dr. Karen Clark it’s important that people recognize that if their symptoms are interfering with their quality of life, it’s okay to talk with your doctor. Nobody should need to suffer in silence.
As Omisade Burney-Scott and Sheila Rao shared, going through this period introduced weight gain, insomnia, and emotional highs and lows among other things. For Burney-Scott, menopause also felt lonely, and sparked her desire to start having open conversations about what she was experiencing. What did you learn about menopause from this episode? Why do you think there is cultural silence around this topic? What did hearing about these experiences bring up for you about your own menopause, or that of your mother’s, aunt’s or grandmother’s?
How much do microaggressions matter?
Divorce rates for adults ages 50 and older have roughly doubled in the past 25 years according to the Pew Research Center. While folks over the age of 50 are less likely to have tried online dating than single younger folks, they are definitely still on the apps. Laura Stassi became newly single after the end of a 30-year marriage, while Ellen Ashley got on the apps after her marriage of 25 years ended in divorce.
Ashley talked about her experiences finding new non-romantic companions through Meetup. What kind of companionship do you have/hope to have in your 50s and beyond? Did this episode introduce you to any new perspectives on companionship, romantic and otherwise? How much do you value intimacy and companionship in your life now? Do you expect that to change in the future, why or why not?
Does hot sex have an age limit?
Sociologist Pepper Schwartz says the biggest cultural myth is that sex is not acceptable or exciting as you age. Data from Linda Waite, who has been studying the behavior of older couples for more than a decade at the University of Chicago, confirms that “women who remain sexually active through their mid-80s don’t report any more problems with sexuality like lubrication or lack of desire than women like them in their 50s.”
What do you make of Schwartz’s assertion that our beliefs about sex and intimacy as we age are shaped much more by ageism than by our changing physical bodies and abilities? Did this episode challenge any of your assumptions about sexuality and aging? Do you feel comfortable imagining a full and vibrant sex life for yourself in your later years? Why or why not?
Omisade Burney-Scott is the creator and host of “The Black Girls’ Guide To Menopause.”
Pepper Schwartz is a professor of sociology at the University of Washington and a relationships expert for AARP and the Lifetime series “Married At First Sight.”
Laura Stassi is the creator and host of the podcast “Dating While Gray.”
Ellen Ashley is a resident of Greensboro, North Carolina affiliated with the Creative Aging Network.
Want to dig in further?
- What Doctors Don’t Know About Menopause >>
- Sexuality Later In Life >>
- Sex, Aging & Living Erotically >>
- Dating Over 50? >>