Synopsis: This love success lesson focuses on – plan ahead questions; love for health and spirited living; mindset issues; elder self-love; don’t retire instead encore; age segregation; with love older better sex.
Plan Ahead QuestionsAs you grow older what are you going to do about love? As you grow older what are you going to do about getting loved and giving love? All kinds of love are to be considered here. So, as you grow older, and then even more old what do you know about elder romantic love, sexual love, family love, friendship love, spiritual love, love of life, healthy self-love and all the other possible ‘loves’?
Whatever your age, what are you doing about loving those around you who are or may soon be classified as ‘seniors’? What do you want others to do about you and love? The sooner you have well-informed answers for these types of questions the better you can build toward a love rich, elder years life.
Here is another important question. Is there something inside you that has sort of been telling you that as you become ‘elder’ you have to give up on love? That is a sort of subtle, societal, subconscious programming that gets into the heads of a lot of people as they grow older. A variation of that programming tells us we have to give up on certain kinds of love. Many have been taught that it is not socially proper for elders to be interested or active in certain kinds of love or love with certain people. Especially is that true if anything sexual might be involved. Gerontology research mostly says – WRONG! It is not healthy to think this way or abide by this type of thinking.
Love For Health and Spirited LivingThe more healthy, real love older people get and give the longer they live and the healthier they stay; also the more spirited is their life. One recent study showed that lonely, less loved, older adults were 45% more likely to die in any given year than were seniors who felt meaningfully connected in love relationships with others.
Being older with one or more meaningful love relationships and having an active social involvement is related to biological processes that increase health, improve and keep our physiological systems functioning, decrease inflammatory difficulties and help people avoid stress-related, unhealthy hormone development with its resulting physiological damage. That summarizes the findings to date of an extensive, on-going, major English research project being conducted in epidemiology.
In the US it has been found that well loved, meaningful relationships significantly assist elders to normalize blood pressure and avoid all the difficulties that go with it. Furthermore, meaningful, positive love relationships reduce the development of destructive chemical compounds in the human body that seem to occur more commonly in the lonely and less loved. Other findings show that more spirited, zestful, energetic living occurs with more loving. The ‘loveless’ live much more dispirited and the well loved and loving live much more ‘inspirited’ and ‘inspired’.
So, the message is clear. If – or – when you’re an elder and you want to live healthy and lively keep putting lots of loving into your life. To do that you will probably have to examine closely what your mindset is about age and aging.
Mindset IssuesYou may have grown up in a family, or a neighborhood or a town in which it was common to think certain ways about older people. In some parts of the world this is very positive and older people are honored for their wisdom, maturity and the good things they have offer those younger than themselves. In other areas the general attitude is disdainful, disparaging, demeaning or even denigrating toward elders. Possibly you grew up around people who were just neutral, vague, unconcerned, disinterested and dispassionate about older folks. Whatever the case, what you grew up around may have given you a mindset toward your own aging that is not of your own choosing.
Especially important is examining to see if you were programmed to have negative images and stereotypes about being older because that can have a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ effect on your own life as an elder. It also can greatly affect how you treat older people and how you may block yourself from receiving their enrichments. Your mindset can have powerful negative or positive effects on your health and lifestyle. If your mindset is positive it can assist you to an old-age that is lively, strong, agile, spirited, healthy and well loved. Especially important are the following mindset areas.
Elder Self-LoveComing out of his United Presbyterian Church Etheridge greeted and in a quite chipper mood conversed with a surprisingly large number of people. He bragged unabashedly about a painting he had completed and he unashamedly flirted with females. To the close friend who had driven him to church that day he said he was going to walk home because it was such a beautiful day. He declined a dinner invitation because he had a speech to prepare and because he had a ‘hot date’ to get ready for that night. Then he zestfully set off walking home which was about half a mile away. Etheridge was 101 years old.
There is an almost endemic problem with elders living in overly youth-oriented cultures. It is that in such cultures elderly people begin to lose healthy, self-love and with it self esteem, self-confidence, self-respect and a sense of self-worth. In societies that revere and do well at loving, the older one gets the prouder and more healthfully self loving one may become. When self-love diminishes there often is a diminishment of self-care, acceptance of assistance, increased social isolation, increased sense of inadequacy and increasing feelings of not being lovable or worthy of love. As noted, when this happens biological health is negatively affected and illness and accident proneness also tend to increase.
Those elderly people who ‘own’ a healthy self-love tend not to experience negative biological effects nearly as strongly as do others. Their psychological state tends to continue growing, remain strong, and be what some call healthfully ‘youthful’. So, if you grow older rejecting any and all societal negative interpretations of your aging self you probably are doing yourself a big, biological and psychological flavor.
Don’t Retire – EncoreAnother big mindset issue has to do with work and more exactly retirement. It’s a sad fact that many people after retirement rapidly deteriorate and die much earlier than they might have. Retirement seems to trigger a subconscious process in which people’s thinking about who they are triggers their biological functioning into dysfunction. Retirement for all too many means starting to think things like “I’m no longer productive, contributing, proficient, influential, helpful, important or significant”. Many try a lot of recreational activities and superficial socializing, and that helps for a while, but because it’s not seen as of substantial worth its helpful effect often diminishes after a while.
What to do about this? Start an encore career or involvement. Those who move on to encore actions tend not to deteriorate, tend to live longer, and tend to feel really good about their lives, perhaps even better than ever. Those who have a purpose, donate themselves to a worthy endeavor, get intrigued with new learning or working on a challenge, a major pet project, or a cause do far better than the rest. Many do this as volunteers giving time and energy to worthy endeavors. Some do it to bring to life and nurture their long, dormant talents in the arts. Some join writer’s workshops and begin writing ‘their book’, articles or blogs.
Still others get into consulting, advising and teaching in an area they already know. Another group keep their careers going and never retire because they really love what they’ve been doing for many years. They may cut down on the amount of work time or specialize in the most fun part of whatever their career was and leave the rest alone. All this can be seen as an aspect of healthy, self-love but it also can involve a person’s love of life.
So, what is your encore involvement going to be? It’s never too late to start an encore involvement, and probably it’s never too early to start thinking and planning what it will be.
Age SegregationWhen older people allow or cause themselves to be age segregated they may live too limited and not in ways that are good for them. There is a teaching in the East that translates something like “to become mature and wise, associate with your elders. To retain youthfulness, associate with youth. But to live best, associate with people of all ages”.
Some social scientists and certain public health theoreticians suggest being segregated by age groups is anti-natural, quite artificial and probably a big societal mistake. Learning to be comfortable around and be enriched by people of all ages is a problem for those who mostly have been age segregated most of their lives. Those who went to the type of school that practiced having no age grouped classes, and move ahead at your own speed education are thought to do better with age integration. Do you agree that love can flow to and from people of any age and to live that way is a highly desirable blessing? Do you agree that to live too age segregated may seem comfortable but it actually may be too life limiting? Are you going to be sure not to live too age segregated?
With Love – Older Sex, Better SexLots of older men and women think they have to give up on sexuality, so they do. Certainly changes often are in order as one gets older but giving up on sex is totally uncalled for and decidedly not the healthiest way to go. You see, sex is really good for you and maybe even better for you as you get older if you go about it in an age workable way. What do you consider to be sexually normal and desirable for people of an older age? Are you using standards that are too much the norms of youth or even middle age? If what you consider to be sexually normal or desirable actually is more appropriate only for youth, you’re likely not to do so well.
Men in particular who have been societally programmed to believe sex is all about ‘penis in vagina’ intercourse and about climaxing have a particularly hard time adjusting to the rather different, best sexuality possible for elders. When males learn ‘whole body sex’ and ‘love centered sex’ they do far better. (See category: Sex and Love ) Both men and women who think their body has become too unattractive or too ‘ugly’ could best start doing their sexuality in darker places or with more sexy clothing.
Women who think they can not lubricate sufficiently don’t need to believe their sexuality or femininity is lost but rather is usually just in need of more and longer erotic actions, plus the use of lubricants. Erotic fantasy sharing, movie watching, reading, learning to think and act in ‘no pressure to perform or succeed’ ways, and to have an ‘everything can be enjoyably and okay’ mindset, plus the mindset of ‘there’s lots to enjoy in addition to, along with, and besides intercourse and orgasm’ – all or some of these often help people learn new and better ways of how older people can go about sexuality.
There are cultures in which older people seem to have great sex lives and very few sex problems. Both men and women who engage in the sacred sex practices of two of the Hindu religion’s major divisions, the Tantric and the Shakta, tend to keep their bodies mostly healthy and their sexually functioning quite well every year of life, no matter how long they live. You might want to investigate those.
Here’s another aspect of elder love with sex which shocks some, angers quite a few and delights others. I know a small group of mostly females mostly in their 20s, 30s and 40s who especially like and seek sexual experiences with considerably older men and women. People in that group say things like “older sex partners are more total and complete, and know a lot more about being loving”, “the mature know what they’re doing and the rest are just kids – cute but awkward, clumsy, unsophisticated, ignorant, sometimes stupid and sometimes dismally arrogant. Who needs that”! A 23-year-old I know bragged about spending weekends with a couple in their 70s saying it was the best sexuality and the most loving experience of her life. She also told that the next week she was traveling with a professor of philosophy in his 80s and she can’t wait to get him in bed and then to talk and talk and talk.
For older participants who are ‘mixing it up’ with younger adults, the evidence seems to show outstanding results can occur. Older men and women having sex with people 20 or more years their junior seem to get younger physically as well as mentally. (See Does "Cougar" Love Work?) The younger participants often get more maturity and wisdom, and often some finer life experiences, so everyone usually benefits.
Sex and love go together and sometimes bring about what is called a May/ December romance and even enduring, healthy marriages. Historically for hundreds of years this used to be the norm. He was anywhere from 30 to 85 and his bride was anywhere from 13 to 27. Less of an age difference was seen as shockingly unseemly.
Nowadays, in certain circles, couples who have much of an age difference are disapproved of or even rejected. However, the evidence shows in many relationships, of the romantic type, where healthy, real love is a major component, age similarity is not needed. The more democratic approach of letting people choose their own love-mates, irrespective of prejudicial categories of all types, seems to be more in alignment with nature and what is healthful.
Still another elder love/sex practice not talked about in many circles is the ancient, even biblical custom of what is sometimes called partner sharing. Martha makes love, not just has sex, with both her retired husband and his also retired widower brother. Sometimes all three go on vacations together. They’re thinking about sharing a house and expenses together too. Sarah was so thankful to be taken in by her elder sister and sister’s husband after her own husband passed away from a long illness. At first they all just cuddled into the night, but that lead to other things which have been working out quite well for all of them for quite a few years.
It is to be noted that ‘partner sharing’ among older people mostly is done very quietly and secretly. It seems to be much more common among social liberals, often ex-hippies, than among conservatives and traditionalists. As mentioned, partner sharing is an old custom with early biblical references. It was for ages a primary way to take care of the problem of widows and widowers, those who had been abandoned, the disabled, the infirm and also destitute relatives.
In patriarchal cultures it was recommended as virtuous for keeping alive family bloodlines because every female taken in was expected to bear the prime males of the house at least one child if possible. In today’s world the practice of partner sharing, especially including romantic love and sex, seems to benefit a certain number of energetic, lively elder people who have lost their spouses. Some social scientists think this partner sharing among lively, older people is likely to slowly keep growing in popularity because with the help of the health sciences there are more and more lively elders.
To wrap up then, the importance of lots of love in your life, all types with lots of different people is vital, healthy and enriching – no matter how old you are!
As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly
♥ Love Success Question Is your picture of your own life as an elder full of ‘vim and vigor’, zest, joy, sexiness, productivity and delight – or more the opposite?