They are not yet eligible for Social Security or Medicare, but you can tell from their sagging chins, receding hairlines and growing paunches that they are on the verge of major changes in mind and body. Yes, America's 77 million baby boomers are coming of age--old age. In two years the first offspring of the post--World War II generation (born from 1946 to 1964) will turn 60. What will that mean for the sons and daughters of the Age of Aquarius? Will passion diminish? Will performance decline or (gasp!) wither away?
Well, kids, take it from someone who has collected his first Social Security check: the sexual impulse doesn't vanish with age, even if--how to say this delicately?--execution sometimes falters. There's plenty of evidence--scientific and otherwise--that healthy seniors, even residents of nursing homes, continue to have active sex lives. Consider the decision of a Riverdale, N.Y., senior home to permit trysts among clients as long as they are consensual. Or the buzz about the film Something's Gotta Give, in which Jack Nicholson plays a 62-year-old roue who boasts of never having had sex with a woman over 30, only to free-fall for Diane Keaton, his latest girlfriend's mom, still steamy in her 50s.
And why not? Without fear of an unwanted pregnancy--or worries about kids barging into the bedroom--older couples have much less reason to be uptight about sex. They are also much more likely to be adept at pleasing each other, knowing where and how to arouse. Some sex counselors report that they see quite a bit of what anthropologist Margaret Mead called PMZ (post-menopausal zest). "Indeed, some women begin to have orgasms for the first time as they grow older," write Dr. Robert Butler and his wife, psychotherapist Myrna Lewis, in The New Love and Sex After 60 (Ballantine Books; 400 pages), the latest edition of their classic advice book.
So what's to fret about if you're only edging 60? Well, there are a few impediments. For all the cheerleading of sex-advice books and the fervor of magazines like Modern Maturity, the AARP's house organ (GREAT SEX: WHAT'S AGE GOT TO DO WITH IT? blared a cover a few years ago that featured a voluptuous Susan Sarandon), age does bring sexual changes for both genders. My father, who flirted outrageously even after he turned 90, liked to tell the story of the old guy who wants his doctor to "lower" his sex urge. At your age, says the astonished physician, you ought to be happy to have any sex urge. "You don't understand, Doc," the old guy persists. "I want you to lower it from here [pointing to his head] to there [his groin]." Erectile dysfunction is, in fact, no joke; it afflicts about 1 of every 4 men over age 45 and half of all men over 75.