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Tue, Aug 17, 2010
The Jakarta Post,
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Romance not finished for those in twilight of life
by Ida Indawati Khouw


The usual images which come to mind as we think of love on Valentine's Day are of pretty young things in the bloom of youth.

But the elderly in love? Many of us choose to assume that matters of the heart - and physical relationships - are a closed chapter for those with sagging waistlines and graying hair.

It does not have to be the case, according to gynecologist and sex consultant Dr. Boyke Dian Nugraha.

He advises older couples to strive to maintain the spark of intimacy which brought them together in the first place and warns against couples letting their sexual relationship slide.

He said the danger was that one of the partners may become resentful and frustrated if their sexual needs were not being met.

"Both of them should always maintain the feeling (of being lovers) through different ways, like kissing, embracing, sending flowers, going somewhere together, creating a fantasy back to the years when they were still two young lovers," he said.

He said a day like Valentine's was a perfect opportunity to give a boost to a loving relationship, but sex did not always have to enter into the equation of showing affection.

When thoughts do turn to sex, it may be a case of the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak for older men and women.

Boyke urged couples to remain in good physical condition and not to let themselves go physically with the excuse of getting old if they wanted to enjoy a healthy sex life. He said physical difficulties, such as male sexual dysfunction and postmenopausal problems for women, could be overcome with drug therapy and counseling.

Due to physical changes in the aging process, the genitals of older women may be less sensitive to sexual stimulation, which will make it more difficult for them to achieve orgasm.

"There are therapies like hormone replacement therapy for women, while there is also Viagra to enhance male sexual ability," he said, adding he prescribed the drug for his male patients with sexual dysfunction.

Variety is also the spice of life in maintaining a sexual relationship, Boyke said.

"Male sexual desire can decrease due to (sex becoming) a routine. That's why couples should always be creative in their sexual relationship, like changing their physical appearance or practicing new positions during sexual intercourse," he said.

"Women may lose sexual desire due to menopause as research shows that 80 percent of menopausal women suffer a drop in sexual desire due to a decrease in the hormone estrogen, but the condition can be treated," he said.


Suwardhana, 60, who married 49-year-old Wawa two years ago after he was widowed in 1997, said all aspects of a relationship, including sex, were important to him.

"I don't have the feeling of being too old to experience love," he said.

The father of four said he decided to remarry despite his children's initial opposition because he needed to be part of a couple in dealing with life. He said he needed the companionship he lost with his wife's death and to enjoy a physical relationship again.

"My children have grown up and live on their own, so I felt alone at home. I also think that all normal and healthy men like me still need sex, which is also part of our lives, isn't it," he said.

The auto workshop owner from East Jakarta said the couple continued to have an active life outside the home, such as going to movies, dining out at restaurants and exercising together on the weekends.

Still, how people choose to express physical love is an intensely personal choice. For some in the older generation, any public expression of feelings, such as a kiss or warm embrace, is taboo.

"Such kinds of expression are no longer part of us," said Rudy Setiawan, 76, who has been married for almost 49 years to Annie.

Echoing Boyke's statement, he said love could be shown in many other ways than sex.

"We express our love in our daily life, like a greeting when I come home. That's why I feel a bit empty if my wife is not around when I am home," he said.

"I usually express love through small things in our daily life. It is through simple way, like buying things she likes on the way home from office."

The businessman said his relationship with his wife was now like brother and sister.

"Everything is open between both of us, we have nothing to hide," said the father of five.

He also believed the dating game and going out was for the younger generation.

"It is difficult to find places like restaurants or cafes which are proper for people of our age to 'date'. I think most of the places are for the youth," he said.

Rudy said the couple often looked back on their shared past - "We sometimes spend time recalling our beautiful and romantic moments when we were young"- but matters of what he termed "Eros" were no longer part of their relationship.

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