The second gem of a book I found while planning for my graduate human sexuality course last fall is Assisted Loving: The Journey through Sexuality and Aging by Ginger Manley. It is really easy to find books on most sexuality topics, such as sex addiction, sex therapy, general sex education, teens, pornography, etc. What does not exist is a lot of good quality resources for sexuality of seniors. Our world seems to forget that seniors have sex too!
Ginger Manley is a nurse practitioner and a certified sex therapist. She has been doing this work since the 1980’s. She also wrote a column in Mature Lifestyles magazine where people could write in to ask advice about sex, sexuality and aging. She has also taught sex education classes at Vanderbilt University specifically for those over 60 years of age. This book is a compilation of her columns that cover everything from relationships to medical issues.
So, what makes this book special? It specifically addresses the issues that most other sex therapy or sex advice books do not. When discussing relationships, most books do not tackle topics such as dating after the death of a spouse, how to date online when you are in your late 60’s or how to talk to your adult children about your new love interest. The fact that these are real questions from real people make the book very relatable. Ginger Manley’s frank and humorous style make the book fun.
I will relate a short story related to this book. I am the type of person who just reads my books related to work wherever I am, be that on an airplane, etc. If people ask me what I am reading I will show them. I was in a tire shop, waiting on my new tires, reading this book. A lovely older gentleman sat down next to me. He got a flat on the way to his church’s men’s group that needed to be fixed. He asked me what I was reading. I replied with a “do you really want to know?” And off we went. Turns out he was 83 years old and happily married for well over 50 years. We had a wonderful, long conversation about sexuality in older people, his own relationship with his wife and a million other things related to sex. Never in a million years did I think I would be having such an open and honest conversation about senior sex in a tire store with a man I never met! I relate this story because I think it shows that people want and need to talk about relationships and sexuality no matter the age.
So what are some of the issues that this book addresses? It is divided into four sections. The first focuses on relationship issues. Many of the issues that seniors face in their relationships are the same as the issues faced by younger couples. There are issues of communication, lack of sexual interest, and dissatisfaction in the bedroom. Other issues that are more frequent in older couples involve starting new relationships after the death of a spouse and how to navigate online dating when you are older.
The second section focuses on male issues. Not surprisingly, many of these focus on erectile issues or lack of sexual interest. Using both her sex therapy background and nursing background the author delves into issues of ED, low T, sexual functioning after prostate surgery and TURP (Transeurethral resection of the prostate). Section three turns to women’s issues. Again, the author’s role as a nurse is helpful in working through issues that come with aging including hormonal changes and incontinence issues.
The final section is devoted to other medical issues. The issues in this section are those that are not most commonly brought to the clinical office and I assume are not frequently brought to the medical doctor as well. She covers topics such as resuming sex after joint replacement surgeries, dealing with added weight or things such as blood pressure medications. Additionally, and much less talked about in general, are topics of Parkinson’s symptoms and sexuality as well as how to manage sexual activity when one spouse has early stage dementia.
If you work with sexuality issues in your practice, or if you are a senior who wants to get questions about your health and/or sex life answered, this little book is for you. It is a fun but serious look at how aging affects our sexuality and offers great advice to help us to enjoy a healthy sense of sexuality no matter our age!
Dr. Weeks is the founder and director of Sexual Addiction Treatment Services. For more information on her practice, check out the website at www.sexualaddictiontreatmentservices.com