Toying with the idea of sex toys? SA's grannies are embracing them

Clinical sexologist Marlene Wasserman says women's sexual interest heightens after passing the menopause phase.
Clinical sexologist Marlene Wasserman says women's sexual interest heightens after passing the menopause phase.
Image: 123RF/Katarzyna Białasiewicz

When a woman in her 90s turned to a South African clinical sexologist for advice on the best sex toy on the market, the sexologist was hardly surprised.

Neither did she bat an eyelid when an elderly couple revealed during a therapy
session that they were keen on using sex aids to spice up their bedroom activities.

While the thought of senior citizens engaging in hanky-panky may hold a cringe factor for some, new research published in the scientific journal Plos One shows that older people have more than bowls, bingo and crocheting on their minds.

In fact, according to the University of Glasgow study, they are thinking about sexual satisfaction and how they can achieve it, sometimes even in the face of deteriorating health.

The research examined a variety of factors, including health, lifestyle and relationship quality, to determine how they affect intimacy between older people - mainly between the ages of 55 and 74.

Of the 3,500 who took part in the study, 62% of men and 54% of women were sexually active and 42% indicated they were satisfied with their sex lives.

Deteriorating health reduced the frequency of sexual activity, but it made men experiment with new ways of having sex.

The study also found that pharmacological approaches like Viagra didn't always help to resolve sexual difficulties.

And it showed that for those in a relationship, sexual satisfaction was strongly associated with both the quality of communication with their partner and contentment with their relationship.

In SA, sexologists have found that sexual activity among senior citizens is on the rise.

Clinical sexologist and sex therapist Dr Marlene Wasserman has found that people in their 90s continue to be sexual because "they are living longer and living healthier".

Sex survey results.
Sex survey results.
Image: University of Glasgow

"Once women pass their menopause phase, I am seeing that their interest in sexuality is incredible. Women become free to be much more sexual, and I have found this across cultures.

"I've had a lot of women between 55 and 70 wanting to buy their first sex toys. Whether there is or isn't a partner, they want to bring on the toys.

"I've had women in their 90s contact me who are keen to use sex toys. That's kind of a new trend generally."

She said that in retirement villages and care homes there was a high incidence of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases because of the lack of education about HIV or condom use.

Wasserman said senior citizens generally found a love connection in these homes.

"In terms of older, married couples who come in for therapy and say that they want to try sex toys, [it's] because they are overfamiliar with each other and don't want to cheat.

Margie van Zyl Chapman, chair of the South African Care Forum, an NGO serving older people, said care staff often struggled to devote enough time to the subject of sex.

She believes sexuality and intimacy "are integral to one's total wellbeing as one ages".

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