Sex Education: "It Ain't Over Till It's Over"

February 15, 2007

The New York Times yesterday published this story about a sex education class for men and women for whom understanding how diabetes and medication can contribute to erectile dysfunction is as important as knowing how to correctly put on a condom.

The sex educators had news for this class of 40 people in their 70s and 80s, just in time for Valentine’s Day: Older folks are friskier than ever, and it’s never too late to learn about safe sex.

Sexually speaking, said Norm Sherman, who organized the presentation, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

The class last Wednesday, for residents of what is known as a “naturally occurring retirement community” at the Queensview and North Queensview co-op complexes in Long Island City, was run by Selfhelp Community Services, a nonprofit agency that provides services for the elderly across New York City.

The group’s leaders said they started sex-education courses in January after noticing an increase in sexual activity among their elderly clients, something they attribute to the popularity of Viagra and testosterone supplements as well as women shedding the idea that sex is shameful. Along with the increase in sexual activity at senior residences, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, there are increased complications because of lack of knowledge, said Becky Bigio, another of the educators.

A recent survey of people 45 and older, conducted by AARP, reported a sharp increase over the past several years of men using sex-enhancing drugs, and observed a corresponding “re-awakening” among women, who said their own sexual satisfaction had been enhanced. The study concluded that health care providers and patients were in need of sex education.

The instructors seemed to do a good job of not only providing the necessary clinical information, but also making sex fun, as they discussed flavored lubricants and achieving orgasm through masturbation.

Warning of the danger of taking Viagra with some heart medications, Ms. Binford recommended “cheap man’s Viagra” — a metal ring that slides onto the penis to maintain the erection. “You can get them at the Eighth Avenue sex shops,” she said. “It’s a good field trip. Put your dark glasses and hat on.”

She recommended similar outings to stock up on condoms and exhorted the women to build sexual confidence and self-esteem by undressing in front of the mirror.

“You’ve got to love you,” she said.

Good advice at any age.

One quibble I have with the story is the comment by an 89-year-old woman who said, “The kids today are having more fun than I had, but they’re also having abortions and all kinds of diseases.” As if abortions never took place before Roe v. Wade!

Plus: Looking for a hip, crafty place to carry condoms (at any age)? Get inspired by the condum amulet Naomi designs and promotes in connection with safe sex advocacy.

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