a publication of the sexuality and aging consortium at widener university

Reflections on Sexuality and Aging By Connie M. Bowes,

Reflections on Sexuality and Aging
By Connie M. Bowes,

Recently, I celebrated my 72nd birthday.  Being this age feels quite
shocking and utterly amazing to me at the same time.  I frequently wonder,
“how the heck did this happen?”  It feels strange to be in this body of
advancing age and experience the aging process.  I used to wonder what it
would feel like to be an older person.  Now, I know because it’s actually

In many ways, the person living inside this body is the same as always.
However, what has changed is my perspective on life at 72 vs. life at 22,
32, or other milestone years.  My priorities have changed.  I have reached
goals, raised a family, had a career, and was always “on the go.”  Now, I
seek out meaningful relationships, friendship, small pleasures, and more
quiet times.  The other big change has been the physical changes in my body,
none of which I signed up for.  I now must learn how to accept the physical
changes that are occurring, in the wrinkles that appear in my face, in the
extra pounds on my hips, and in the changes to my available energy.  Each
stage brings us a number of physical challenges to deal with.
On the sexual side of the equation, I am also experiencing changes, most of
which I didn’t sign up for either.  What was once so easy now sometimes
becomes a challenge. I find a dramatic change in my natural libido.  The
body that once signaled sexual urges with fluctuations in hormones, has now
gone into retirement mode. I breezed through my fifties and through
menopause with help from “estrogen replacement therapy.”  Then, the medical
world found dangers with HRT.

In my sixties, I awaited arrival of the new drug designed to help women
raise desire and libido.  It has taken years to get to market.  Recently, I
obtained a prescription for this drug, but when I took it to the pharmacy, I
found out it was not covered under my insurance. The retail price? An
incredible nine hundred dollars for a 30 day supply.  Needless to say, I
won’t be filling this prescription.
Without the benefit of replacement hormones or a magic bullet drug to pump
up our libido, senior women face these changes in sexuality pretty much on
their own.  There are several compounds that may enhance our sexuality.
Estrace topical cream can be helpful to supplement vaginal moisture.  Some
testosterone compounds have helped some women.  There are over the counter
lubrications and preparations to enhance sexual feelings.  Vibrators and sex
toys can also enhance sexual experiences.   But there can be a great deal of
confusion, emotional pain, and feelings of aloneness as we go through the
sexual changes in aging.
In 2006, when I was 62, I returned to school to obtain a doctorate in Human
Sexuality.  During the years that I was studying, I had the opportunity to
examine my own beliefs and fears and obstacles to sexuality.  Sexuality is
at our core and defines a great deal of who we present to the world.  Much
more than simply having sex, or intercourse, or orgasm, our sexuality is our
entire physical presence and how we manifest it to the world.  It consists
of our self-image, our body image, our eroticism, our inner beauty, our
desires, our attractions to others, and our need for affection and
attention, to name a few.
Healthy sexuality follows us throughout life.  Sexuality does not “turn off”
at a certain age.  Our healthy sexuality follows us into older ages.  Just
because we face some physical changes in our body and in our libido, doesn’t
mean we give up on our sexual wellness. Now, in my sexuality counseling
practice, I help others to explore the changes they experience in their
sexuality and together we explore new doorways and learn to make choices to
maintain sexual wellness.

Dr. Kimberly Chestnut, and I will be presenting in September, 2016, at the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health, in
Austin, Texas.  We plan to talk about models to help professionals in the
pursuit of sexual wellness throughout the life span.  For information,
please call me at 484.328.8978, or email me at conniebowes@gmail.com
Constance M. Bowes, Ph.D.
C. M. Bowes and Associates, Malvern, PA 19355

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