The 'big O' and ageing - what to expect

A client recently told me that she “always had ripper orgasms, but they seemed to be getting more intense” as she gets older and that she might even “pull a hammy some time soon”.  She then asked me, “What is normal?”

Yes, orgasms can become easier with age, and for some women this would include intensity even after 80! Sex can get better with age because we understand our own bodies better, and also our sexuality. With age, feeling confident in yourself can allow you to feel confident in the bedroom and in being able to communicate what you want or what feels good.

However, the quality of orgasms for some women can also change as a woman’s body goes through physical changes due to ageing. Some women may find that their orgasms become less intense or shorter then they used to. Other changes include needing more pressure to stimulate the clitoris because it shrinks, less swelling of erectile tissue, less sensitivity and slower nerve reactions that can come with age. Some of these changes can also be caused due to lower hormone levels.

Having said that, some older women find their orgasms become more intense at menopause, despite physical changes taking place.

As we age, sex slows down and becomes more interpersonal. It may take a woman longer to attain the same level of lubrication as it did in her younger years. It may also take longer to get aroused, but slowing things down for both partners can also result in more satisfying sex.

Read more: Masturbation – is it good for you?

In an International Longevity Centre report, Dr David Lee from the University of Manchester and Professor Josie Tetley from Manchester Metropolitan University, found that while difficulties in becoming aroused steadily increase in women aged 50-79, these then fall after the age of 80 to below the levels seen in 60 to 69-year-olds.

In an article by Care Home UK, an 82-year-old woman named Joyce says her orgasms are “wonderful and far better than when she was 20”.

For many women, sexual confidence grows with maturity, and orgasms become more intense with a lack of worry about pregnancy (after menopause), and being able to let go and just enjoy the sexual experience, connection and pleasure.

Never or rarely have an orgasm?
It’s not too late. If Joyce and other women in their 80s can have satisfying sex, you can too!

A recurring theme in my practice is women waiting for sexual arousal to fall from the sky, so no intimacy takes place at all. I find this leads to avoidance of being generally affectionate in case it leads to sex. This is generally the case when all or most acts of affection turn to the expectation for sex.

It is important to be able to discuss (away from the bedroom) what your needs are physically, emotionally and in relationship satisfaction. Over the years, has the way you like to be held, touched or stroked changed? If you are still being sexual even on a limited basis, are you engaging in foreplay?

Read more: How to keep your sex life on track as you age

Many couples I work with have stated that foreplay lasts for about two minutes and then into intercourse they go. For many women, it could take up to 20 minutes to get warmed up – so if she is not aroused, touching the clitoris or trying to stimulate the clitoris isn’t going to be fun; nor does this provide adequate time for the female sexual response cycle to kick in and arousal to build.

If a lack of lubrication is a problem, then it’s important to use a lubricant at the start to help things along. If things are uncomfortable during intercourse, go back to touching, kissing and engage in outercourse. There is no need to stop entirely.

Or maybe life or sex became boring, especially if things have become predictable over the decades. Think about what things you would like to try to do differently, things that can deliver a bit more fun. Think about what your sexual triggers might be. What excites you sexually? Do you have any sexual hang-ups from upbringing or cultural/religious beliefs? As you’ve aged, what is your attitude towards sex now?

Read more: Older adults at increasing risk of sexually transmitted disease

Being able to understand your own body will go a long way to being able to orgasm on your own and with your partner. It is important to not make having an orgasm the goal, as this can put pressure on you and make things go the other way.

Things to think about that can help with orgasms are: feeling present and relaxed, relationship satisfaction, understanding your sexual triggers, healthy attitude towards sex, allowing time to get aroused and experiencing pleasurable feelings and sensations throughout your body.

Communicate what you want more of and where, how you want to be touched – is that more pressure/softer/harder/slower/faster and, most importantly, focus on your own pleasure first. If your partner is still missing the mark, guide their hand or fingers and show them what you like.

Has your sexual appetite stayed strong as you’ve aged? Lucy’s next column will focus on male orgasms. If you have a question for Lucy, send it to [email protected] and pout ‘For Lucy’ in the subject line.

Lucy Patarcic is a sex therapist, relationship counsellor, general counsellor and clinical hypnotherapist in private practice in Sydney. She uses an integrated approach to therapy and holds a Master of Health Science (Sexual Health) and Master of Science in Medicine (HIV, STIs and Sexual Health) in Public Health both from the University of Sydney.

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Written by Lucy Patarcic



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