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Swinging singles at 70 -- and beyond

They're ready and willing, if not always able: seniors are leading more active sex lives

Author's name will be provided upon request (Aug 1, 2006)

Senior citizens are leading more active sex lives and as the veterans of the sexual revolution head toward retirement, the golden years are getting even hotter. Carol McConnell, single after her husband of 18 years passed away, approached dating with some trepidation. But she found men her age and older to be ready and willing -- if not always able -- sexual companions.

"At first I tried the seniors' dances," said McConnell, 63, who lives in Ontario. "They're meat markets." On the website Wired Seniors, she met several older men, including an 83-year-old who sent her $1,000 to cover the cost of a visit to California. A 70-year-old from Canada wooed her, too. She said both men used Viagra, although with limited success.

Eventually, she met a 69-year-old male friend for occasional romantic trysts. "We get it on in his truck. This is purely sex," said McConnell, who added that she enjoyed staying single and having the freedom to date around.

Today's seniors are meeting their sometimes medically enhanced later years with a more liberated mindset, with access to multiple partners through the Internet and with more movies and books that depict their sexual adventures. But with more grannies getting busy, there is an increased need for education about health risks.

Studies show older married couples are staying sexually active later. And seniors dating after divorce or the death of a spouse are sampling an increasingly spicy singles scene.

A U.S. National Council on Aging study found sex didn't stop with a few grey hairs.

Findings showed 71 per cent of men in their 60s, 57 per cent in their 70s and 27 per cent over 80 engaged in sexual activity at least once a month.

For women, 51 per cent in their 60s, 30 per cent in their 70s and 18 per cent in their 80s were active in the same period. As adults stay healthy longer and surgery and drugs improve sexual performance and drive, these numbers could rise higher.

Simultaneously, media depictions of the post-60 crowd have changed, with movies like Meet the Fockers and Something's Gotta Give dealing with sexuality and changing social mores.

Even in conservative areas, sexuality among seniors is becoming more open.

Jaques Duhr, a retired French pastry chef, was one of the first to volunteer when the Dietert Senior Center in Kerrville, Texas, decided to create a semi-nude calendar showcasing its men. "I wanted to redefine the meaning of the word seniors," said Duhr, 66.

Although Duhr admits the centre does not yet have a hot dating scene, he knows this could change, as the calendar -- which raised $20,000 for a new building -- continues to open minds in his conservative town, while lifting a few eyebrows.

At the new facility's groundbreaking, Duhr removed his jacket and rolled up his sleeves before making a speech. "People all started to roar," he said. "They thought I was going to strip." Viagra and nursing home orgies are frequent topics for Frank Kaiser, a Florida journalist whose column, Suddenly Senior, is featured in 56 newspapers. His equally bawdy web- site of the same name gets more than five million hits a month.

"We were brought up in a very sexually repressive age," said Kaiser, 70. "I think as some men start to die off, the others think that after 50 years of marriage, I can have all these women and be the stud that I never was at 20."

Doctors are just starting to get a broader glimpse of sexual activity for older adults, said Dr. Marc Agronin, director of mental health services at the Miami Jewish Home & Hospital for the Aged.

"I remember working at the Veterans Medical Center in Los Angeles before we had Viagra. When they began a sexuality clinic, using a vacuum pump or injections, men came in by the droves with walkers and wheelchairs," Agronin recalled. "There still was this vital need and desire to remain sexually active."

Even with the help of modern medicine, some older men cannot engage in intercourse but this doesn't stop them from playing the field. Geriatric sex therapist William Kelly says hanky panky in nursing homes is more likely to involve other forms of stimulation.

"People are recognizing that their sexuality is lifelong," Kelly said. He describes a trend in nursing care toward allowing dating and cohabiting between unmarried couples. "If two people were dating there a few years ago, it would have been verboten," he added.

Sexual activity for the aging is not without problems, including increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that AIDS cases among Americans over 50 quintupled since 1995. Seniors, no longer concerned about preventing pregnancy, are one-sixth as likely to use condoms and one-fifth as likely to get tested for HIV as their younger peers, according to a Center for AIDS Prevention study.

Both Kelly and Agronin noted a difference between the amount of sexual activity in adults in their 60s and 70s and those in their 80s and 90s. As seniors grow older, physical limitations occur and the number of potential partners diminishes, but romance continues.

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