Updated: Jul 24, 2019
Since I was a young girl, I loved Dr. Ruth Westheimer; she not only looked like my grandmother Yayi, but she was also a courageous woman ahead of her time. For those who are unfamiliar with Dr. Ruth, she’s an 85-year-old sexologist who speaks candidly about sex and better ways to enjoy it. Generally, young people are taken aback by the idea of grandma talking about, or . . . spare the thought . . .having sex, but they sure did crowd into my college auditorium that spring morning to hear Dr. Ruth tell us to do our Kegels while we were stopped at traffic lights in order to have better orgasms. She evoked waves of nervous, heartfelt laughter throughout the talk (I dare you to not laugh at the thought of grandma having orgasms at traffic lights), but she got her message across. She would be the first to tell you that a lesson taught with humor is a lesson that sticks. 20 years later, I am a Geriatrician with a “minor” in sexology—by default. I work with older people everyday, and sex is an inevitable topic of conversation. It has become clear to me that even though our bodies age, our spirits and desires never do- unless we let them, that is. It is with the purpose of promoting healthy, fun, and safe sex and intimacy that I write this book.
Even with a decade of experience under my belt, I can still be taken off-guard by blunt questions. Not long ago, one of my 82yr old patients came in for his regular follow-up office visit and blurted out, “Doc, what do you think of me, or older people, having sex? “
Initially, I was a little startled, but once I switched gears, I got over it. It made me realize that despite the fact that medical school had equipped me with an armament of answers for almost any possible questions a patient could ask, it had definitely not prepared me for this one. I initially thought was, “Well yes, older people have sex, and it’s natural. And as George Michael sang, ‘Sex is natural, sex is fun. Now everybody does it, ‘cause everybody should’”, but he was really asking me what my guttural reaction was. And that was what I was unprepared for. It’s something we should be unashamed of at any stage of adulthood. It can also be awkward and funny, no matter what stage of life you’re in.
This book will probably make some people uncomfortable, in the same way I was unprepared for my patient’s question. Yet at the same time, I understood why he asked the way he did. Sometimes you just have to get straight to the point, especially when it comes to discussing taboos.
Addressing cultural taboos wasn' my only goal in writing this book. When I told my non-medical friends about my endeavor, the reaction vacillated between shock, repulsion, fascination, and amusement. When I told my fellow geriatricians, the reaction was exactly the same. These reactions led to a revelation: even in medical school, the topic of sexuality of the aging population is still a “no-no” subject. It made me realize that this preconceived idea about aging needs to be addressed.