Sexual Wellness Resource Center
For Adults over 50.

Senior Sexuality in the Media

Sex and Seniors
By Michael Bates, M.D.

Sexual Media CoverageThe media is a powerful machine that shapes our views about almost any social issue, including sex. The way the media portrays certain topics reflects our cultural beliefs and attitudes. At the same time, the messages promoted in the media can have a strong effect on our perceptions and our experiences. The media influences how we should be and how we should live our lives.

Well, let´s explore a little bit what the media is telling us about our life sexuality. Until recently, the general cultural trend has been negating that middle and older adults are sexually active. In Western societies, ageism has been a dominant stereotype, and older adults have been generally portrayed in the media and the medical literature as non-sexual o post-sexual, and unattractive. For the first time in history, however, the so-called “baby boomer generation” will be the largest demographic group in America. This new wave of vibrant, adventurous, and passionate people openly defies the ageism stereotype. We resist conforming to dated conceptions about age, sexuality and relationships.

Interestingly, the media is progressively shifting the perception of what it means to age well. Within the anti-aging culture now installed in our daily lives, sexuality of middle and older adults has been reconstructed and redefined. On the one hand, sexual performance has become a sign of aging successfully; on the other hand, negative stereotypes about middle and later life are evolving and changing. This is good news. We, middle-age and older adults, are now considered capable of living our sexual life to the fullest, enjoying the fun and the pleasure of exploring new facets of our sexual self as we reach maturity.

The message we are getting from the media these days is that we are all responsible for aging well. The key for managing the aging process successfully is to stay healthy, actively engaged in life, and maintaining a positive attitude. Reaching fifty can be the perfect time to reinvent our selves, and to make our old professional and personal dreams a reality. For those of us who are retired, a wide range of activities and experiences are available to fulfill our self-oriented goals. People over fifty are featured in magazines, commercials, and newspapers as vital, potent, and active physically, socially, and sexually. We are also portrayed as savvy technologically, and, therefore, able to seek romantic or sexual relationships online. Baby boomers and older adults have embraced their sexual health, and the media is starting to follow this trend.

According to a recent study conducted by Mineko Wada, from the University of British Columbia, and colleagues, several conceptions of sexuality in middle and later life can be found in the Canadian media:

  1. Sexuality in later life is idealized as better than when we were young and inexperienced.

  2. Surveys show that the 50-plus generation feels more confident about their appearance and their sexuality.

  3. Women over fifty know better about their sexual practices and preferences than when we were younger.

  4. Sex can become progressively better or greater with age. It is less focused on orgasm and more relaxed, less anxious.

  5. Sexual practices can be broadened, because people are more open to new experiences (use of sex toys, for instance).

  6. Many middle-aged and older adults, however, suffered a decline in sexual drive, due to hormonal changes (women), medications, long-term relationships that lack romantic passion, mismatches in each partner’s sexual preferences, and certain life stressors.

  7. Age, in itself, has no impact on sexual ability or desire. It is, instead, health problems that hinder full sexual activity. Hence the need to enhance our sexual life through experimentation and exploration. We can use various techniques, adult toys, lubricants, medical aids (for erectile dysfunction, for instance) products that can help to enrich and improve our sexual life.

  8. Sexual life contributes to improve health, and to get a better cognitive functioning, high quality relationships, and good quality of life.

As we can see, the media offers a very positive view of the sexual functioning of middle and older adults. This shift in attitudes and stereotypes is a good reflection of the changes that society is undergoing with regard to living longer and healthier. And we, the plus-50 generation, will be the driving force in this challenge of the old stereotypes about age and gender.