CAMDEN, Maine — Dr. Dorree Lynn would like everyone to know that sex and intimacy after age 50 is a natural and important part of life.
“Sex is your birthright,” the psychologist, sex educator and author said Friday afternoon in a presentation at the Camden Public Library.
“It keeps you healthy. It’s the juicy vitamin. Instead of reaching for the arthritis pills, why not reach for your partner?”
Lynn’s frank, humorous talk seemed to strike a nerve with the audience, comprised mostly of folks older than 50. They asked questions about Viagra’s side effects and how to find a therapist who can help couples with these concerns. Mostly, the listeners seemed glad to have a chance to talk about a subject that often is seen as taboo, but one that Lynn emphasized very much exists.
The presentation was co-sponsored by the library and by Quarry Hill Retirement Community in Camden, which was eager to have the Washington, D.C.-based Lynn — who is the AARP’s media expert on sex and intimacy — share her wisdom with Mainers.
“We just felt like it was really important,” said Suzanne Miller, the health services coordinator at Quarry Hill. “It’s something we certainly know is important to our residents. And there really are no good road maps for people in this age group.”
Lynn aimed to provide some basic directions, including the notion that the biggest sex organ in the body is the brain.
“Desire, and the willingness to have a positive attitude about desire, is the best aphrodisiac,” she said. “Thinking, feeling and attitude are really what makes the difference. The head leads the body.”
Sex for grownups is about “morphing” the mind and adapting the practice to changing bodies, she said. With more than 80 million Americans older than 50, it’s time for the nation’s youth-centric culture to grow up a little, she said.
“Historically, we have never lived this long or had the capacity to love this long,” Lynn, 68, said. “We are the pioneers.”
According to her, sex at age 50, 60, 70 and 80 can be “a lot happier — and sexier — than sex at 18.”
Adjectives to describe intimacy for this group might include “slow,” “sensuous” and “deliberate,” Lynn said.
She also encouraged people to broaden their definitions of sex and intimacy.
“Sex is more than penetration,” she said. “If it feels sexy, it’s sex. Sex may involve intercourse, but it also can be so much more. It’s connection. You can touch somebody lovingly. Foreplay begins in the morning, when you say something nice to your partner — instead of complaining about last night’s activity.”
While it may be challenging for seniors to come to terms with their changing bodies, Lynn said that just getting enough touch can make anyone “feel alive.”
“Touch is always healing,” she said.
Lynn promoted education around sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, and encouraged condom use by all who are not in a monogamous relationship. There is an STDs epidemic in nursing homes, she said.
“Condoms still remain a sexually active person’s best friend,” she said. “You can’t become pregnant. But you can easily contract an STD.”
After the presentation, Miller said that Lynn’s words might help the Quarry Hill staff better talk about what she described as the “elephant in the room.”
“We’re aware that our residents’ sensuality and sexuality is still a core part of them as a whole person,” she said. “It needs to be addressed.”
Lynn said that she would most like people to know that sex after 50 exists and that it’s all about communication, touch and connection.
She also had a special message for residents of the Pine Tree State.
“In those long, long winters — where Maine is known for a lot of spousal abuse, alcoholism and anti-depressants — wouldn’t it be a lot nicer if people could cuddle in bed?” she asked.
For more information, visit www.FiftyandFurthermore.com.