The Triumph of Love and Aging

Despite the obstacles, love can triumph for the old as well as for the young. The importance of a sustained love relationship in old age is hard to overestimate. Sex brings more than direct physical gratification, although this by itself is not to be slighted. It also reaffirms each partner’s identity as a person who can offer something worthwhile, and who can be someone worthwhile to another person. The body is still a means of giving and receiving pleasure.

But there is another important function of sexual intimacy in old age. The old person is all too often ‘typecast’ to the outside world. He is the secondary character, belonging on the fringe of the real action.
We tend to remain at an emotional distance from him. Every day we walk past, almost through old people on the street, without clearly registering their existence as individuals.

How and where is the old person to find reassurance that he is truly an individual? That his distinctive personality has not been forgotten? That he means something to somebody? Surely, he cannot entirely rely on the sad image of himself that is reflected back to him by society.

The intimacy of two people who shared years, joys and sorrows together, is an excellent buffer against a world that looks at old men and women but does not really see them.

In each other’s arms, they continue to be themselves rather than society’s impoverished image of the aged. The small intimacies, the quiet conversations, the sense of togetherness remain both precious and life-affirming.

In years to come old lovers may have more of a chance than they do today. Society may come to recognize that oppressive attitudes toward sexual intimacy in old age merely reflect its own insecurities and misconceptions.

If we expect to remain sexually alive beyond early adulthood, then we are likely to do so. And if we can overcome unexamined prejudices against those suspected of being old lovers today, then we are more likely to raise a new generation who will understand our own intimate relationships when we are old.

Quotable Quote: “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” Author: Anon.

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