Healthy Aging

Ask Joan: What matters…and what doesn’t

senior couple

I turned 76 a month ago. I used to think that 76 was old, as in Nearing-The-End old. Now I think it’s old, as in Experience-Lived-And-Wisdom-Gained old. Each new year of life that I am lucky enough to live, I take stock of who I am and what changes I want to make. I evaluate what matters and doesn’t matter as I age. When we have limited time, we need to spend it on the valuable stuff.

What doesn’t matter to me at this stage? Wrinkles. Puckered thighs. Loose skin. I hear women bemoan their aging bodies, say they have to cover up. Some tell me they’re giving up sex because why would anyone desire their old bodies? Yes, wrinkles startle us, showing up in places we didn’t expect — even cleavage in a push-up bra! — but hey, our bodies are the youngest they’ll ever be from now on

We can celebrate our bodies, or hate them, or ignore them. Which choice serves us best? We can’t go back in time, but we can go forward accepting ourselves and glorying in our life experience. The more we accept and celebrate ourselves at our age now, the sexier we will feel. Sexy is an attitude, not the tautness of our skin.

My view: let’s celebrate the ability of our bodies to move us, to stimulate us, to feel sexual pleasure. And why should we see ourselves as less beautiful or less desirable because we wear our experience on our skin? Isn’t that a badge of living?

I’m amazed at how well my body functions, despite my age and many health challenges. I realized a long time ago that I can’t change what I inherited (family history of heart disease; a mother who took up smoking during her pregnancy, resulting in my lifelong respiratory problems) and what happened to me (auto accident body destruction).

But I can change what I do to keep my health day by day, hour by hour. I’m a fanatic about exercise, tracking my fitness activity, teaching line dancing, walking, Pilates. I lead a busy life, but I make time for exercise because it gives back more than it takes. My mental acuity and physical energy are charged up by movement. I feel lighter in my body when I exercise. I embrace my physicality. That translates to more joy, better sex, and myriad unseen health benefits.

This isn’t just a women’s issue. My male newsletter subscribers added their comments:

Does matter:

  • Staying as fit as I can, physically and mentally; 
  • Assuring my lover that I find her sexy and attractive;
  • Learning from my lover what does and doesn’t feel good to her, so I can pleasure her best;
  • Open communication, lack of judgement, willingness to experiment;
  • Sense of humor;
  • Respect and love.

Doesn’t matter: 

  • My wrinkly skin and muscle loss;
  • The times my penis is only semi-erect;
  • PIV (penis in vagina), which I used to think was the goal of sex, only happens rarely, but the other ways my lover and I have sex are exciting and visually arousing;
  • How long arousal and orgasm take — we see it as prolonging the pleasure.

“Life is too short to waste arguing, proving yourself, being cruel to yourself or others, wishing people who can’t give you the love you want would, not pursuing your own joy, pleasure, creativity, and the fullest expression of your life force,” writes sexual empowerment coach Amy Jo Goddard in “Surrendering to Life: The Inventory of the Un-Done.” Though only 49 (a “senior in training,” as I call younger people), Goddard is already wise about what matters.

I often reflect on this: every path taken or not taken, every relationship that starts or ends, every life decision — all of these open doors and windows to what happens next. I realize with the perspective of 76 years that our paths aren’t linear. They wind around, sometimes end up where we started, but with new knowledge. Or they lead us to a new place entirely. Sometimes the signposts along the way are helpful, other times they’re in a language we don’t know, so we make our best guess.

I think the only mistake we can make is to be afraid of taking a path because we don’t know what’s at the end of it. The truth is, we don’t know where it will take us even if we think we do.

My advice for aging creatively:

  • Move as much as possible — your health depends on it.
  • Nourish your mind with intellectual activity — read, take a class, learn new things.
  • Adopt the “if not now, when?” mindset and live your bucket list now.
  • If your relationship situation needs changing, change it.
  • Spend time with friends — we don’t know how long they’ll be with us.
  • Tell the people you love that you love them.
  • Learn from the past, celebrate the present, be unafraid of the future.

Your turn: What does and doesn’t matter to you as you age? What advice would you add to my list? Please comment.

[Parts of this article first appeared on Joan’s blog at https://joanprice.com/2019/10/on-turning-76.html.]

A Message from Joan:

I receive many more questions than I can answer. To help yours get chosen, know this:

  • I select questions solely from readers age 60+.
  • If I already answered a similar question, yours is less likely to be chosen, so do a search for your topic first.
  • When you submit a question, describe your problem, how it affects you, what you’d like to know. Your story will be edited.
  • For medical advice, consult your doctor. Change doctors if you’re not satisfied or if you’re treated dismissively.
  • I select questions for publication only. For a private answer, request a consultation. Most questions about sex and aging are answered in my books and webinars.

Send Joan your questions by emailing sexpert@seniorplanet.org. All information is confidential. Joan can only answer questions that are chosen for publication from readers age 60+


Joan Price is the author of several self-help books about senior sex including her newest, “Sex after Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality after Losing Your Beloved,” and the award-winning “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex.” Visit Joan’s website and blog and her Facebook page. For senior sex news and tips, subscribe to Joan’s free newsletter.

 

COMMENTS

6 responses to “Ask Joan: What matters…and what doesn’t

  1. What matters to me at age 64- being grateful for all of the gifts in my life – people I love and some who also love me back, my good health and fitness, living in a beautiful city and having talents to develop and explore, painting, writing, and dancing, time to read and reflect. Sensuality and sexuality. Delicious. The daily feast of sights, tastes, aromas, sounds, and touch.
    What doesn’t matter – conforming to the majority paradigm of what I should look like or act like as I age. Trying to live as long as possible. I don’t think making it to 100 years old is the point.
    Advice – I like all of Joan’s advice. I might add – Remember not to take life too seriously. No one gets out alive so might as well have some fun. Step out of your comfort zone on occasion. What have you got to lose? ;^D

  2. Thought I had already responded to this great article by Joan. As an 81 year old married for 58 years to my now 80 year old bride, we offer the following. Accept the fact that you are ageing and don’t dwell on the past and what you could do back then. Embrace the wrinkles and the new folds in your skin. They are equally sensitive and equally tasty. So it takes longer….isn’t that nice ! Adapt to a new and different sexual closeness with or without a partner. Don’t let yourself miss out on enjoyment of your aging sexuality. Self pleasuring is not only beneficial for the body…it is good for the soul.

  3. Lovely article Joan. As an octogenarian , I believe that first and foremost, we should accept the fact that we are aging….slowing down and in some cases, falling apart.
    Don’t dwell on the past and what you have lost. Instead , look forward to continued enjoyment of your sexual and mental being and the pleasure of being with your partner. If you don’t have a partner, don’t give up looking and above all, be happy with what you have and who you are. After all, you have lived one hell of a life…and there may be more.
    Just my thoughts.

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