Time was when people routinely stayed for decades in marriages that were devoid of fun or frolics. How very different life is in 2014! Today, divorce has become commonplace. Recently, the Office for National Statistics said the number of 45- to 64-year-olds living alone has risen by 833,000 in two decades.
Naturally, many divorcées and divorcés do not plan on being celibate for the rest of their lives. They want to get back to what Virgil called the notus calor — the well-remembered warmth of a sexual embrace.
Therefore, more mid-life people than ever are experiencing what it is to date again, and to go to bed with someone new. Dating often carries the burden of social awkwardness, and many promising relationships founder after that first diner à deux. Perhaps the most useful advice we can offer is to refrain from assuming that eating together will guarantee action in the bedroom. It might, but it might not.
Are there any health concerns about resuming sex? For instance, should you consult your doctor? Definitely not! Your GP would be astounded if you asked for a ‘pre-sex check-up’.
However, men who are about to resume intercourse are sometimes worried that unaccustomed passion might be too much for their hearts. It’s very rare for gentlemen of a certain age to keel over during sexual action but such disasters do occasionally occur. The most celebrated case is that of President Félix Faure of France. On 16 February 1899, he collapsed and died while being given oral sex by his new mistress.
There are some health issues you need to know about. If you are a man returning after a long lay-off, you could have trouble getting an erection. The likeliest causes include obesity, anxiety and guilt about your previous partner. If it persists, it could be caused by diabetes or a circulatory disorder. A flaccid penis is not only frustrating, but may indicate medical problems. Successful treatment is usually possible.
If you are a woman past the first flush of menopause, you might experience a lack of lubrication. This is usually due to the drop in hormone levels in the fourth decade. Fortunately, that can be made good by hormonal pessaries or creams prescribed by a doctor. Alternatively, one of the erotic ‘lubes’ available via the internet will almost certainly help. The biggest health risk is a sexually transmitted infection or STI. The nicest possible people may harbour something nasty. Just because a woman says she was faithful to her husband for 30 years does not mean he was faithful to her — she could have chlamydia without knowing it. The latest STI figures indicate that mid-life people are remarkably naive about sexual diseases, and that is why the incidence is rising. Last year, there was a 7 per cent increase among 45- to 64-year-olds and an 8.2 per cent increase among the over-65s.
You may be too old to make a baby — but you need to use a condom to be sure of avoiding infection. Admittedly, on a first date, it may feel embarrassing to produce one from your wallet or handbag, but it’s less mortifying than finding out that you have an urgent reason to attend a genito-urinary clinic.
Finally, here are a few bedtime tips. If you’re male, you might be desperate to prove to yourself (and her) that you’re still ultra-virile, and that you can thrust away vigorously for ages. However, this is not how to impress most women who want romancing, touching and caressing — and lots of reassurance and compliments. And don’t forget that the lady is most unlikely to be overly concerned about the size of your phallus. She’ll be far too busy fretting about whether you’re going to notice her wobbly tummy or her slightly descending nipples.
Unless she is decades younger than you, she may appreciate it if you apply some artificial lubrication, so it might be worth equipping yourself with a discreet sachet of Liquid Sylk or Pjur Aqua.
If you’re female, remember that unless your new man is unusually strait-laced, he will be grateful if you compliment him on his equipment because he might be nervous about using it with someone new.
Don’t worry about — or try to discuss — your stretch marks or cellulite. His mind won’t be on them. Do tell him if he is doing well, and congratulate him if he finds one of your erogenous zones.
Lastly, whatever your gender, do bear in mind that — unlike old dogs — we can learn new tricks. Your return to the ‘joy of sex’ is a marvellous opportunity to extend your repertoire and it may surprise you just how invigorating this can be.