Feeling lonely and depressed upon retirement, and after two marriages, Elfriede Vavrik went to see her doctor. His suggestion to ‘help herself’ wasn’t appreciated and so she decided instead to place a ‘wanted’ ad in one of the broadsheets. Little did she know at the time that her ad was to generate such an enthusiastic response, including from men twenty years her junior. She went on dates and, began to explore new relationships. She committed her experiences to paper in Nude Beach, a warts-and-all account of sexual pleasure in later life.
Elfriede is an inspiration for this project.
We know surprisingly little about sexuality late in life, assuming that older people don’t have either the appetite or possibility to have sex. To grow old means to enter a life of boredom, bad smells, and ill health. Yet, when one lifts the lid on old age, one might be surprised by the variety and veracity of sexual appetites and extent to which people continue to demand, and experience, intimacy.
To begin a conversation about sex and intimacy in old age might well be an important means of changing our views on older people. Perhaps it might also inspire some seniors to enjoy their lives a bit more, seeing they are in good company. With a rapidly rising number of so-called ‘grey divorces’, many take advantage of development of technology to look for new partners, or casual encounters, with help of the internet and medicine. Sex, after all, is a symbol of youth and vitality. To better understand ‘what old people are up to’ might ultimately trigger a change in our attitudes towards them.