Relates' new campaign talks the joy of sex in later life

New campaign seeks to celebrate the joy of sex in later life

‘The simple fact is, we all need intimacy now more than ever – and age really is just a number’

The relationship charity Relate has teamed up with the celebrated British photographer Rankin to spotlight and celebrate sex and intimacy in later life.

In the campaign Let’s Talk The Joy of Later Life Sex, the photographer shot five naked (or nearly naked) older couples and one woman in their most intimate settings in a bid to tackle stigma around the subject.

The images, which will soon be seen on billboards around the country, are accompanied by text aimed at challenging stereotypes of sexual desire in later life.

One picture shows a woman who has had a double mastectomy, with her partner, and the words: “The years are going up, but you’re still going down”, while another shows a man kissing his partner’s neck with the words: “Over the hill. And the table. And the sofa.”

Rankin, who shot the campaign on a pro-bono basis, said the images aimed to show the universality of love and sex.

“The simple fact is, we all need intimacy now more than ever – and age really is just a number,” he said.

“The greatness of love and affection – the very things we can’t stop writing books, films and pop songs about – doesn’t need to change as we find our later years.”

Gail Thorne, a sex therapist with Relate, said: “It may seem as though it's only young people with 'perfect' bodies having sex and being intimate but of course this isn't true!

Billie and Cora for the Relate campaign

“In reality, 'sex and intimacy in later life' means different things to different people: for some it's about exploring new and different sexual experiences, and for others it's simply about feeling able to express emotion through a gentle touch or kiss on the cheek.

“What we're trying to do today is open up a society-wide conversation about the fact that sex and intimacy - whatever that might mean - can be as important for older people as it is for anyone else.”

She added that not being able to speak openly about needs and desires can negatively impact a person’s self-confidence and relationships. “This is what we want to change,” she said.

According to a poll undertake by 3Gem market research, two-thirds of over 65s (67 per cent) say sex and intimacy for their age group is rarely (43 per cent) or never (24 per cent) represented in media, compared with a fifth (20 per cent) of 18-24-year olds.

Mark and Andrew star in the new campaign for Relate

A 2019 survey of the sex lives of people aged 50 and over found that regular sexual activity helps promote good mental and physical health.

The study of 2,577 men and 3,195 women found that men who reported a decline in sexual desire were more likely to go on to develop cancer or other chronic illnesses that limited their daily activities.

Men and women who reported a decrease in the frequency of sexual activities were also more likely to experience a deterioration in how they rated their level of health.

The research also found that older adults enjoy life more when they are sexually active.

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