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Sex, like fine wine, improves with age, seniors say

Practice makes perfect

"It's quality not quantity now," says 80-year-old Clyde Rowett (right, with partner Sid Jenner, 69). Credit: Shimon Karmel photo

“My sex is better than it has ever been,” says Jim Deva, standing comfortably among the multicoloured vibrators, dildos and butt plugs that line Little Sister’s back wall.

Deva, now 60, says he has witnessed many older couples walk through the bookstore’s doors over the years in search of sex toys to spice up their golden years.

He refuses to accept society’s suggestion that seniors are no longer sexual beings.

Western society thinks “we’re supposed to sit in the back of the room and be very polite,” he says.

“I don’t give a shit what they think.”

One of the greatest myths of our society is that when you get to a certain age you are no longer sexual, he continues. “I’m finding as I talk to other [seniors] that you, in fact, get more sexual as you get older.”

Deva says he still has a very satisfying sex life with his partner of 30 years.

“They [the young generation] really don’t think of us as sexual in any way,” he notes. “But older gay men and lesbians are extremely sexual. Far more than they have ever been in their entire life.”

Having better sex in the autumn of one’s life is not surprising, says Dr Pega Ren, sex therapist and author of Xtra’s Ask the Expert column.

“We’re much better at sex when we’ve done it a lot,” she says.

“As we go through life, our behaviours change, and as our behaviours change our priorities change and our experience and knowledge base expands,” Ren explains.

“So here we are with this vast knowledge base and experience, and we’re ready to roll — and sometimes we have to make accommodations for a body that can’t perform as it used to,” she acknowledges.

A senior herself, Ren agrees Western society is hard on the aging when it comes to sex. “We become invisible sexually as we age,” she says. “You don’t see grannies selling lingerie.”

“It’s always about the young with the buff body, and the whole world isn’t like that,” says 80-year-old Clyde Rowett. “The whole gay community isn’t made up of buff bodies.”

Rowett and his partner, Sid Jenner, 69, are members of Vancouver’s Prime Timers, a gay men’s social club that caters to seniors. Before meeting Jenner, Rowett says he had almost given up on romance.   

“I assumed that meeting another partner was not going to happen at my age, and I wasn’t looking for someone,” he confides.

Today Rowett and Jenner have a healthy, sexual relationship.

“We occasionally have a third person, which adds excitement,” Rowett says.

For Rowett, relationships these days are more about honesty and less about jealousy and confusion.

“Certainly, the young people have a wonderful energy, but when you get older there’s a bit more of a loving energy,” he says. “You want more chemistry, not just to get your rocks off… It’s quality not quantity now.”

For well-known dyke writer Anne Cameron, it’s neither quality nor quantity.

“It’s a number between five and seven,” the 71-year-old jokes when asked about sex.

“I’m not sexual now,” she admits.

“I have chosen not to be sexual because I’m just not going to waste the energy on relationships,” she explains unapologetically.

For Cameron, a self-professed serial monogamist who claims to never have had a one-night stand, sex is a chapter she closed after ending a 20-year relationship a decade ago.

“It [the relationship] exhausted something in me,” she says quietly. “The exhaustion reached the point where it was affecting my work. I walked away from the relationship. I chose my writing and I decided that’s it.”

Although she isn’t having sex now, Cameron opposes the widespread belief that seniors aren’t sexual beings.

“I say bullshit! I would be willing to bet that most seniors have more satisfactory sex than these silly little 17-year-olds that think they invented it last week.

“I think that they [seniors] are willing to spend the time that is required for a fully satisfactory orgasm,” she continues.

“Anybody can climax — they sell machines that can help you do that — but for deeply fulfilling [sex] it takes some time.”

Men and women look at sex differently as they age, says Ren, adding that older women place a greater emphasis on masturbation as a means to sexual intimacy and release.

“Raw sex is a driving force [in the young]. It just gnaws,” she says. But for women, “after menopause it is far more gentle. It doesn’t take up as much room inside as it used to.”

“When we are young, masturbation is an adjunct to the other sex life we know we are going to have,” she says. “When we get old we don’t have that sense of entitlement.”

Solo sex in the senior years isn’t solely a woman’s domain, says George Fuller, 82.

Fuller was in a heterosexual marriage until he was nearly 70. He identifies as bisexual and says his sex drive — which is still going strong — is now satiated through erotic literature and masturbation.

Unlike Cameron, Fuller says he would welcome a more active shared sex life.

“It is hard to come by,” he admits. “I don’t have much sex because I don’t have anybody to have it with. I find [meeting people] hard, and I don’t go to bars. I miss the companionship that sex was a part of,” he adds.

Last year, Fuller’s partner was placed in a care facility after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Fuller says single seniors have far less sex than their coupled counterparts.

Not so, says Bill Monroe, a popular long-time drag entertainer. “I’m single and sexy and happy,” the 76-year-old asserts.

When asked if he is having sex, he replies, “Lots of it!”

Monroe says sex drives vary from person to person regardless of age. Sex is greatly influenced by a person’s state of mind, he suggests.

“Some people are old at 20 and some people are ancient at 40. It depends on your mind, whether you’re open.

“If you’re boring, you’re boring,” he says. “If you think you’re old, you’re old.

“I see seniors walking down the street hunched over with a mean look on their face. If you walk around looking like you’re sucking a pickle, you’re not gonna get any pickle,” he laughs.

“It is a state of mind,” Deva agrees.  “If you think that you’re a certain age and the proper thing to be is a sort of ‘virgin’ senior, then that’s what you become.

“I think seniors that have a glow to them are sexual, and I think if you don’t have that sexual energy you don’t have energy,” he adds.

For Brian Searle and Patrick Savoie, owners of the popular downtown breakfast café The Elbow Room, sex is integral to vitality.

A senior, Searle says he feels older when he can’t have sex.

As he’s aged, his sex drive hasn’t diminished as much as it has transformed. “We consider sex cuddling up with one another and touching,” he explains. “Maybe it’s a kiss or a cuddle or a handjob.”

While Searle and Savoie still enjoy the sexual connection they share, others are less than supportive.

Savoie remembers the night they were out dancing at a gay club when “some queen told us, ‘Isn’t it time you were in bed, you seniors?’”

To which he replied, “Excuse me, dear, but you don’t know anything. If it weren’t for us old queens you wouldn’t be where you are today.”

“Older people are just like young people — we have something to give to life,” Savoie says.

“Maybe we don’t have the biggest hard-on in the world,” he adds, “but we still like to cuddle and be told we’re attractive.”

After all, he points out, “we’re all going to get old one day.”