The idea of older people having sex horrifies some. Radio jocks joke about it. Television shows and movies ignore it. Advertising pretends it doesn’t exist.
Ogilvy UK, relationships charity, Relate, and British photographer, Rankin, have teamed up to bring the “censored” subject of sex and intimacy in later years out into the open. Their campaign, Let’s Talk The Joy of Later Life Sex, which launched in the UK on April 25 has taken on the stigma around the subject and hopes to eradicate it.
It’s a big job.
Only one-fifth of Brits think society is OK talking about sex and intimacy in people aged over 60. Fewer than 10% of people aged over 65 think society is comfortable with it.
The majority (60%) of people aged over 65 aren’t comfortable talking openly to anyone about sex and intimacy, citing embarrassment as the top reason at 66%. This was followed by “it just wasn’t talked about when I was younger” (64%), not wanting to make others uncomfortable (63%), not knowing when to bring it up (58%) and lack of confidence (57%).
According to a poll undertaken by 3Gem market research in the UK, two-thirds of over 65s (67%) say sex and intimacy for their age group is rarely (43%) or never (24%) represented in media compared with a fifth (20%) of 18 to 24-year-olds.
Rankin’s hero film, shows five older couples and one woman in their most intimate settings. It’s unashamed and anything but coy, exploring everything from long-term love to new adventures, tender intimacy to the more risqué. It shows what sex and intimacy can mean in later life in a way that’s never been done before. The series of images features a range of older people – Andrew and Mark who have been together for 31 years, Chrissie who has had a double mastectomy and her partner Roger, Daphne and Arthur who still hold hands when they walk. The people featured are of varying ethnicities, sizes, shapes and sexualities.
Previous research has shown that there is a significant link between our sexual relationship and overall wellbeing. Relate sex therapist, Gail Thorne, stated, “It may seem as though it’s only young people with ‘perfect’ bodies having sex and being intimate but of course this isn’t true! In reality, ‘sex and intimacy in later life’ means different things to different people: for some it’s about exploring new and different sexual experiences, and for others it’s simply about feeling able to express emotion through a gentle touch or kiss on the cheek.
“What we’re trying to do today is open up a society-wide conversation about the fact that sex and intimacy – whatever that might mean – can be as important for older people as it is for anyone else. We see every day in our Sex Therapy services how not feeling able to talk openly about needs and desires can lead to a lack of fulfilment and be damaging for individuals’ self-confidence and couples’ relationships. This is what we want to change.”
Rankin added, “The simple fact is it that we all need intimacy now more than ever – and age, of course, really is just a number. The greatness of love and affection – the very things we can’t stop writing books, films, and pop songs about – doesn’t need to change as we find our later years. This campaign sets out to break convention, and that’s what it did, both before and behind the camera.”