Many older people are going online to share information about the joys of sex and swap advice about keeping their mojos working well into their twilight years, suggests a new study.
The sex-related topics are lively and wide-ranging among the elderly. Online communications involve sharing information about topics such as age differences between sexual partners, taboos, same-sex marriage, pornography, prostitution, and the use of sexual aids, toys and sex-enhancing drugs.
"Many older adults preserve both a high interest in sex and a high involvement in sexual activities," said researcher Liza Berdychevsky, professor of recreation, sport and tourism at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Berdychevsky and co-author Galit Nimrod examined discussions of sexual topics in 14 online communities geared toward adults age 50 and older.
The researchers found that the discussion threads with sexual content were quite popular, with some posts viewed as many as 5,000 times, among the seniors.
For some users, the online discussions provided a form of leisure entertainment, with discussion forums that were characterized by open, lighthearted atmospheres and posts rife with sexual jokes, anecdotes and innuendos.
Some members wrote about how much they relished opportunities to engage in intellectual discussions about sex, and an especially popular topic was societal stereotypes about older adults' sexuality.
"Of particular interest was society's lack of acceptance of sexuality in older adulthood, the reasons for this ageist view and the importance of changing it," Berdychevsky said.
Some participants recounted bad experiences when they attempted to discuss sexual problems with clinicians who ignored or dismissed their concerns.
The anonymity of cyberspace enabled some seniors to overcome shyness or embarrassment and share their uncensored thoughts about sex for the first time, according to their posts.
Some seniors reported that their sex lives and relationships offline were enriched as a result of their online activity. For seniors struggling with the loss of intimacy due to their partner's death or declining health, the online forums provided emotional support and a place to vent their frustrations.
"Members described various kinds of reappraisal that they achieved through online discussions, such as seeing sex differently or discovering strategies that affected - or had the potential to impact - their sex lives," the authors said.
The paper is forthcoming in the Journal of Leisure Research.