By Jeannie and Pratap Mehta

Sex over 80 (for him) and approaching 80 (for her) “keeps us both young in many senses.”

A loving couple, together for nearly sixty years, looks back on the impact of a prostate cancer diagnosis ten years ago, and the ways they have sustained and reinvented their intimate relationship to cope with changing bodies and abilities.

Wife’s story: Jeannie writes

Cancer can change a sensitive and loving man through fear and pride, into a selfish version of himself. Normally a kind loving husband and father, he turned into a frightened, self-absorbed person. Fortunately we have moved on from that. He did not lose his basic loving sensitivity really, but he was very stressed obviously by the operation.

Shortly after diagnosis came the divisive effect. Pratap didn’t want anyone to know about the diagnosis, so I couldn’t share my fears with anyone. I kept my few close friends ignorant of our worries, which in turn made me feel less of a friend. I was expected and wanted to support Pratap but he didn’t realise that I needed some emotional support too. That had also the effect that I felt less of a friend towards my few close friends, one of whom herself was dealing with ovarian cancer treatment options.

Trapped by the notion of ‘not wishing to be defined by cancer’ he wanted to suffer it all out in secret by himself. Other than our adult children we didn’t tell our wider families or friends. He certainly knew my despair, that I could not derive any comfort from anyone else. Fortunately I practise yoga and meditation and found peace in that way. In our next post, I share more about self care and we both share what we learned as our relationship was affected by prostate cancer.

Navigating beyond erectile dysfunction and vaginal dryness

We decided quite quickly after surgery to use a Vacuum Erectile Device (VED) because at Pratap’s age  (then 72), erections had been getting a little weaker and not lasting as long. We tried Viagra etc for a few weeks with little or no success.

So it is unbelievable to think, having had this scary brush with cancer, that we have extended our sex life. No way Pratap, at eighty two, would be able to have such prowess, shall we call it, without the VED. We are still having a lot of sex, and I think it is keeping us young in many senses.

A great discovery for us was a particular type of vaginal moisturiser called YES VM. Being seventy-seven, although I use Wellsprings Serenity Natural Progesterone Cream for Women, a plant based hormone replacement cream, I was beginning have vaginal dryness which was not fun. YES VM is amazing stuff: It is organic, has no side effects and is much better than KY jelly which is rather heavy. I am a really allergic and reactive type and if I can tolerate it so will most people. Do have a look.

Afternoon delights

We find sex best in the afternoon these days, as often by night time I am tired. We go off to the bedroom to enjoy what used to be called heavy petting. After loads of this fun, Pratap goes to our en-suite bathroom to pump himself up, during which time I introduce an individual one-time use applicator of the YES VM and wait for him. It’s all fun and works for us anyway. I think he has explained we use the spoon position, and I use the Eroscillator. You can read more of our nitty gritty details of practical senior sex.

It is all great fun. As Mish points out, laughter and understanding help along this pilgrimage of reclaiming our sex life.

Husband’s story: Pratap writes

From our experience (married for 55 years, known each other for 59 years) the most important aspect of erectile dysfunction (ED) is that you are keen to maintain your sex life and are able to communicate with each other.

I had radical prostatectomy 10 years ago at the age of 72. Having tried Viagra (and similar), I decided not to go for an implant or injections but opted for a vacuum pump (VED). For us it has been a fantastic success – I can achieve a very large and strong erection on demand. The main disadvantage is that foreplay has to pause for me to use the pump. It’s awkward. This is when good, free and humorous communication is important. When my wife is sufficiently aroused I go and use the pump which takes less than ten minutes.

Satisfying and loving sex over 80

I’m 82 now and my wife is 77 and our lovemaking remains joyful and inventive.

The only limiting factor is that the erection rings (yes, I use two to maintain a good erection) should be taken off after half an hour. Normally for most couples penetrative sex lasts for just minutes. But it is of great benefit to my wife and enjoyable for me that often our intercourse lasts twenty minutes or more. I can go on at the risk of appearing boastful!

The use of a pump requires a great deal of patience and experience but it is really worth it for us. I thoroughly recommend it. We’ve shared more of the nitty gritty tips for sex into our 70s and 80s here, and more about related relationship issues here.