Sexed-up 60s: Seniors raise the STD where the young can’t
The elderly are quickly leaving young people in the dust where sex is concerned
Sex – like sexiness – is generally associated with the young, the supple and the able-bodied.
But while the curation of youthful assets for public consumption has reached fever pitch in the age of Instagram, with endless images of 20somethings in crop tops and bikinis posing on beaches, it does not follow that sex itself is a young person’s game, or that everyone over 50 is simply sitting around knitting and drinking tea and wishing they could return to the washboard abs and hangover-resistant constitutions of their youth.
On the contrary. When it comes to the saucy, from general randiness to sexual experimentalism, the young almost seem left behind.
Older people are getting up to so much hanky-panky, in fact, that it has recently emerged that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Britain are rising sharply among the over-60s.
While the beautiful young are busy avoiding carbs or worrying that they’re too heterosexual, pensioners have been merrily getting themselves gonorrhoea and herpes.
Rising rates of each prompted Derbyshire Community Health Services to launch a three-month push to get older lovers to use condoms and visit the clinic after unprotected casual sex.
Wondrously but bewilderingly, the campaign is called Jiggle, Wiggle – I’ll leave you to decide what this reminds you of, adding only that if there was an award for the least sexy possible name for a safer sex campaign, this would win. Perhaps that’s the point.
Anyone who has recently browsed the dating app profiles of people in their 20s and 30s will know that the young are making quite a big deal about how sexually experimental they are, vaunting their open relationships and dalliances in sadomasochism and other forms of kinky subculture.
In spirit, though, they’re merely following in the footsteps of today’s pensioners, the real sexual renegades who made wife-swapping, swinging and straightforward infidelity regular features of the post-1960 conjugal landscape.
Nor have graduates of the sexual revolution given all this sort of thing up.
Topics covered by Frank Kaiser, a Florida journalist aged 70, whose website Suddenly Senior gets five million hits a month, and whose column of the same name is reproduced in 56 North American newspapers, include “Viagra and nursing home orgies”.
Older daters have been fuelling the success of desktop dating sites for years, but investors are now twigging that the 50+ market has far more vim in it than they’d previously anticipated.
Keen to exploit a divorce rate still at about 40%, and 80 million singles over 50 in North America and Western Europe, Andrey Andreev, the former head of dating app Badoo, launched Lumen, an app for the 50+ range, in September 2018. They say it now has more than 300,000 users.
Zooming back out reveals a poignant picture. As the sex lives of our elders are in the ascendant, aided and abetted by new internet dating services and the “why not” sense that comes from being past one’s fertile years, the young seem to struggling.
Late last year there was a collective gasp, a mass headshake of disbelief, when a major exposé in The Atlantic revealed falling rates of sex among young people.
Evidence for what was billed as a major “sex recession” among the (formerly) horniest demographic was marshalled from a range of quarters – demographers, psychologists, digital theorists. All agreed that something had given way.
Pregnancy rates had plunged, but this was not simply a victory for the enlightened use of contraception, it was a function of falling rates of intercourse full stop.
In the US, the report found, people in their 20s were more than twice as likely to be abstinent as people who were the same age in the 1990s, while a sharp intake of breath met a survey finding that one in eight British 26-year olds were virgins compared to one in 20 in previous generations.
The main – and novel – inhibitor for young millennials seems to be anxiety.
Sex, formerly something people in their late teens and 20s went after in almost unlimited quantities, fuelled by boundless energy, plenty of booze and the (sometimes misplaced) sense that they could handle anything, is now a political and emotional minefield.
Their ever more sophisticated and demanding comfort zones are in constant danger of being traduced; sex, after all, is complicated, and subject to gusts of unpredictability as well as discomfort.
Then there’s the effort involved: a recent Ofcom survey suggested that for many youngsters, in-person interaction is just too much work.
Older folk may not have the taut skin, lissom bodies and endless energy of the young.
But when it comes to having a good time in the bedroom, the elixir of youth isn’t everything; it can even, at least these days, be a hindrance.
Rising rates of STIs are nothing to be proud of. Even so, there’s no debating that it’s greyheads who, at ease with themselves, clear in what they want and like and with plenty of experience in the bag, seem to be having all the fun – and all the jiggle, wiggle, too.
– © The Sunday Telegraph