Body, Mind & Spirit: Easy Wellness Advice for Health and Happiness
Life satisfaction generally increases from mid- to late life, and our emotional experiences may be more positive as we age, but it doesn’t always feel that way. Photo: MoMo Productions/Getty Images
From lifelong sex to brain maintenance and thinking positively, experts weigh in on ways to stay healthy and happy as you age.
“Even as we get older and our bodies change, we never age out of sexuality,” says Joan Price, 78, a California-based author, sex educator and so-called senior sexpert. She is adamant that, rather than giving up, we should adjust and try new things, “so we can enjoy sex for the rest of our lives.”
Price, the author of Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex, acknowledges physical changes may be challenging. “The penis doesn’t work the way it used to, the clitoris doesn’t work the way it used to, penetration is not as pleasurable, we’re not feeling sensation the way we used to, arthritis may mean the hands aren’t working as easily as before.”
She adds, “That’s why sex toys and vibrators were invented. Stop stressing your wrist already!” But some things never change. At any age, “75 to 80 per cent of vulva owners don’t experience orgasm through penetration alone.”
Women shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk about how they require more sensation. On your next “sex date,” she suggests bringing a vibrator and sharing it with your partner, saying: “This is what I need for sexual response and orgasm. It’s a threesome, you, me and the vibrator.”
The design and marketing of sex toys is making them more popular. “I call them pleasure products,” says Johanna Rief, global director of sexual empowerment for Lovehoney, an online retailer of “electronic products for adults,” like the Womanizer, and We-Vibe for couples. Some, she says, “even look like a facial brush; you can leave it on the nightstand, and no one would realize it’s a sex toy.”
Will we reach the point when grandma gets a vibrator for her birthday? “I’d rather they give her a certificate to a sex shop and let her pick out her own,” Price replied. —Judy Gerstel
Life satisfaction generally increases from mid- to late life, and our emotional experiences may be more positive as we age, but it doesn’t always feel that way. Illness, family issues, loss and regret can interfere with happiness, and may also contribute to why life satisfaction tends to decrease after 70. That said, there are ways to boost happiness as the decades pass, says Dr. John Tholen, 74, a retired California cognitive therapist and author of Focused Positivity: The Path to Success and Peace of Mind.
Although our emotions and motivations seem to be directly linked to the events and circumstances we encounter, he suggests we’re reacting to our interpretation of our experiences. It’s our internal monologue, our self-talk that determines how we feel about what’s happening in our lives.
Changing that self-talk with focused positivity starts with being mindful of our thoughts; identifying the dysfunctional ones; and refocusing our attention on positive ones, like gratitude, and motivating convictions, such as hope and self-assertion, that can bring us some peace of mind. —JG
Switch it Up
Maintaining a healthy brain as you age is about more than just besting your daily Wordle score. Brainteasers can help, but so does reading, visiting a museum or learning an instrument. “Variety is key,” says Atlanta-based neuropsychologist and gerontologist Vonetta M. Dotson. “It’s better to add different types of mentally engaging activities to your week than it is to do more and more of the same thing.”
After 20 years treating older patients with cognitive issues, she wrote Keep Your Wits About You: The Science of Brain Maintenance as You Age, a comprehensive guide to healthy behaviours that help sharpen your mind, improve your mood and reduce the risk of dementia.
No matter the diagnosis, from stress-induced lapses in memory to Alzheimer’s disease, Dotson’s recommendations are the same: Be physically active, stay socially connected, engage your brain and eat a healthy diet. If she had to pick one no-no? Screen time before bed. Research, she notes, shows blue light emitted by digital devices interferes with melatonin production. “Sleep is really important for brain health, and other aspects of health, such as a strong immune system. So we should stop behaviour that interferes with falling asleep or staying asleep.” —Tara Losinski
A version this article appeared in the June/July 2022 issue with the headline ‘Body + Mind + Spirit’, p. 26.
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