As this last day of the month is the borderline between July and August I decided to reflect on both July’s and August’s themes WOMEN AND MEN MATTER, with a focus on the GRANDPARENT generation, who are, mainly at least, somewhat older persons. I have covered the grandparent theme from a practical and spiritual angle during this month but not very much on the personal side as men and women and people in relationships.
At my recent 75th birthday event, a fundraising tea for Hospice Wits at my retirement village, there were no more than 6 men present in a group of about 30. That either has to do with the fact that men are not so much into tea parties or that there are far more widows than widowers in such an ageing community.
So what do older people, grandparents, men and women do for fun or do older people die of boredom? It is often said, “I’ve retired, but I’m busier than ever.” Is that what we choose to be or does it depend a lot on circumstances? Depends is of course a necessary and good starting point. Much depends on available resources, money and health, living arrangements, responsibilities and needs. We’re not completely taken up with being grandparents and have our own lives to live too. Our children and at times our grandchildren or other relatives who may be taking responsibility for us need to recognise that too.
Taken separately men’s and women’s interests and hobbies can be quite different but both may enjoy painting, pottery, gardening, music, theatre or playing bridge. But men don’t normally knit or women do woodwork.
Some of us are and remain workaholics of various kinds. Are we afraid of having nothing to do, losing out on something, losing our minds or abilities, e.g. if your hands shake or your eyes grow weaker?
Physically, mentally, psychologically and spiritually whatever resources are available can be tapped into to help us enjoy life as far as possible. Many people find their church involvement a source of joy. However, growing older is no piece of cake and bodies and minds will slow down and develop conditions that are less than ideal. What we could do previously may no longer be possible, but how can we compensate rather than complain and become grouchy and bitter? We, and those who care for us, have to keep in mind that some mental and physical conditions, e.g. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s of course do affect our moods and behaviour and can make us difficult to live with.
Looking from the perspective of gender and possible relevant abilities:
- Who is most responsible in taking good care of themselves, men or women?
- Do we do what is good for us or not? Why?
- Do we have interesting hobbies or take up new hobbies?
- How many new friends have we made, of either sex?
- How can we use our talents and abilities to help others and how can that bring satisfaction to us as helpers too?
- The technological age is a challenge that can be a joy or a source of frustration. We’re not digital natives as our children and grandchildren are. Quite often men are more comfortable in that domain.
What is relevant too is a focus on sexuality. Grandchildren would most likely think it is pretty weird that their grandparents are still sexual beings. It is true that many of us – and not only older people – do feel awkward about the subject of sex. Some helpful suggestions and general content below are taken from an article called “Better Sex as you Age” from a Harvard Medical School series on a wide variety of health issues. www.helpguide.org/articles/alzheimers-dementia-aging/better-sex-as-you-age.htm?pdf=12426
Focus on intimacy and physical touch
A good sex life—at any age—involves a lot more than just sex. It’s also about intimacy and touch, things anyone can benefit from. As you age, it’s normal for you and your partner to have different sexual abilities and needs. Even if you have health problems or physical disabilities, you can engage in intimate acts and benefit from closeness with another person. Take the pressure off by putting aside your old ideas of what sex “should be.” Focus instead on the importance of tenderness and contact.
It’s not just about intercourse. Sex can also be about emotional pleasure, sensory pleasure, and relationship pleasure. Intercourse is only one way to have fulfilling sex. Touching, kissing, and other intimate sexual contact can be just as rewarding for both you and your partner.
An added benefit: Without pressing workloads or young children to worry about, many older adults have far more time to devote to pleasure and intimacy. Use your time to become more intimate.
All in all relationships do matter and sexuality remains a part. Faithfulness to an ageing partner is not always a reality but it is a gift to be treasured to bring joy to the later years of life, grandparent or not. TR FAMILY WEEKLY JULY 31 2019