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Love, Sex, Relationships and Aging

Stria Staff February 12, 2019

Around Valentine’s Day, love is in the air. Here’s a look at the role of romance in aging.

From It’s Complicated to Grace and Frankie, TV and movies have been telling more stories and love after 50. We applaud the gradual shift toward more inclusive entertainment and know that the reality is that love is an important and powerful part of life as we age.

This video captures a young engaged couple, artificially aged with make-up to reveal what they might look like throughout the decades of their marriage. The results are emotional (grab your tissues).

Following are a collection of articles and research about the role of love, sex and relationships as we age.

Headlines & Insights: Curated excerpts from thought-provoking articles

Why Relationships Are the Secret to Healthy Aging
Greater Good Magazine | Karin Evans

Plenty of exercise. Healthy food. Positive attitude. Plain old good luck. There’s lots of advice out there about how to keep body and brain in optimal shape as the years roll by.

But Louis Cozolino, professor of psychology at Pepperdine University, is deeply engaged with another idea. In Timeless: Nature’s Formula for Health and Longevity, he emphasizes the positive impact of human relationships.

“Of all the experiences we need to survive and thrive, it is the experience of relating to others that is the most meaningful and important,” he writes.

At What Age Is Love Enthralling? 82
The New York Times | Sophy Burnham

My admirer, if I can call him that, is not the only younger (or older) man to express affection for me…

But this man left me shaken. I have no desire to take him up on his sweet confession, but he has made me stop and think—about myself, about age, about life.

O.K., I admit it. I suffer from ageism. I find myself buying into our cultural concept of age, which says I’m ugly now, a hag. I’m a product of my culture and of the advertising that swirls around us, presenting beauty as a 19- or even 16-year-old, perhaps, in Victoria’s Secret lace or a Calvin Klein string thong, with her bee-stung lips and sulky face. And look, she is beautiful. She is breathtaking. But why is it that a man can be desirable his whole life long and a woman can’t?

Online Dating and the Impact of Ageism: Love Has No Bounds
AARP | Michael Albo

Age difference in the dating scene is becoming less of a stigma. Former scandalous pairings—especially between older women and younger men—just aren’t that eyebrow-raising anymore. People online are just dating whom they want to date. The word “cougar” has become passé….

When it comes to dating, combating these long-held ageist beliefs isn’t easy—but noticing their daily presence in our lives can help dispel their power. For instance, when friends mention they are dating someone new, notice if one of your first questions is “How old is he?”

Love, in Retrospect
ASA | Amanda Smith Barusch

…The sex-positive attitudes of older adults in America were evident in interviews my students and I conducted with ninety-one Americans between the ages of 50 and 91 (Barusch, 2008). With the exception of 93-year­old Louise, who said, “There is no sex in later life. I want you to write that down!”, the vast majority reported that sex was an important part of their lives and their conceptions of positive aging….

Love is different in later life—both emotionally and physically—and many in the cohort that brought on the sexual revolution are adapting in expansive and creative ways.

Attitudes About Sexuality and Aging
Harvard Health Publishing

The myth: Only the young are sexually attractive.

The culture we live in exalts youth. Turn on the TV or open a magazine and you’ll be barraged with images of supple skin, firm flesh, and lustrous locks. But if your mirror is reflecting a different picture these days, you may feel like the party is going on without you.

The reality: Older can be quite sexy.

Sure, thinning hair, laugh lines, and a paunchy midriff are no picnic. But think back on what it was that made you attractive in your younger years. Was it your soulful brown eyes, your crooked smile, or maybe your infectious laugh? Chances are, those attributes are still as appealing as ever. In fact, a 1999 survey conducted by the AARP and Modern Maturity magazine revealed that the percentage of people age 45 and older who consider their partners physically attractive increases with age.

This story is part of the special editorial series “The Landscape of Love, Sex & Friendship As We Age.”

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