Jul 23, 2008
Lifestyle - More Sex Please,We are seniors
There's a recent study on the sex life of older people in Sweden that surveyed over 1,500 eptuagenarians. Its conclusion: the number of men and women continuing to have sexual intercourse into old age had increased from 52 per cent to 68 per cent among married men and 38 per cent to 56 per cent among married women. In the India of a couple of decades ago, this news would most likely have been received with arched eyebrows and distaste. No longer, however. Although statistics on the number of senior citizens visiting sex therapists and counsellors in India have not been compiled, the phenomenon is most certainly on the rise, say professionals. "It's a fallacy that sex after 60 is only a western obsession," says consulting sex therapist Rajan Bhonsle. "In the last five years, my clientele in the 50-to-80 age group has more than doubled. And there's no coyness—most seniors are upfront about their sexual problems." Last month, a leading 81-year-old Mumbai industrialist walked into Dr Bhonsle's clinic and unhesitantly declared that he was having performance problems. "I get tired easily and I am not able to sustain the act. My partner is not satisfied," he confided. The partner turned out to be his paramour. After psychological counselling and medicine, the industrialist was able to keep both his wife and paramour happy. In another case, the elderly wife of another industrialist contacted the doctor, saying she was under treatment for Parkinson's. But that wasn't the issue. She needed help, as her need for physical relations with her husband had suddenly increased. Apparently her Parkinson drugs were increasing her libido. According to 84-year-old Mahinder Watsa, who has been a consultant on sexual and reproductive health for the past 35 years, sex among older Indians is more visible now because people talk about it openly, at least in the media. "I would say that 65 per cent of my patients are in the 50-to-80 age bracket," he says. "But even as far back as the 1980s, seniors weren't exact celibate. I remember doing a study then with the geriatric community, and a large number of people had problems and queries on sex." With the passage of time, pensioners are no longer inhibited about admitting their continuing desire to get between the sheets. "I had this patient who was very depressed about his sex life after his wife's death," says Dr Watsa. "He casually told me that he needed a woman with special needs as his partner. It turned out that he was into sado-machoism. His late wife used to beat him with a broom and it was only then that he felt arousal." The post-script: the senior later put an ad in the papers asking for a life partner with 'special needs'. Cardiologist Dr Sandeep Rane affirms that a large number of senior citizens whom he operates on are worried about whether they can continue with their sex life post-cardiac surgery. "One of them was 81," he says. Ahmedabad-based sexologist Paras Shah confirms that he has many elderly patients too, and relates the case of an 89-year old man who, worried about his flagging desire, sought an appointment. "And that's perfectly valid," says Dr Shah. "The perception that sexual desire abates with age is wrong. Indeed, the post-50 phase is the golden age for couples, since their kids have grown up and their social responsibilities are over. Viagra is reviving bedroom lives, and often it is the women who push their husbands to consult a sexologist." What part has the post-liberalisation media, with its near-obsession with sex, played in the Great Awakening? Psychologist Anjali Chhabria believes it is a definite influence. "The openness with which the print and electronic media discuss sexual issues has encouraged senior citizens to look after themselves and their personal life," she says. "The healthy and happy old age concept has caught on, and senior citizens are increasingly seeking solutions to their sexual problems. I am not saying the earlier sense of shame has gone away totally. But it has certainly lessened, and sex is no longer taboo for senior citizens." Virumandi, 94, is a great example of this. This Chennai resident walked into the clinic of sexologist D Narayana Reddy a few years ago with an erectile dysfunction problem. The doctor wasn't surprised, having seen many patients in the above-60 age group, but he couldn't prescribe Viagra since Virumandi was a diabetic, hypertensive and a heart patient. He explained the situation to him, and Virumandi left. Two years later, he called the doctor to tell him that he had bought the pills on his own and had been leading a rocking life. "He was willing to die of a heart attack but said that he could not abstain from carnal pleasures in the last stage of his life," chuckles Dr Reddy. Evidently, the sex life of the Indian senior has arrived.