Ending the myth that sex ends when your hair turns grey

Most people try not to think about their parents or grandparents having sex. But not Dr. Lyne Piché.

By Grace Kennedy | August 10, 2021 |9:12 pm

Most people try not to think about their parents or grandparents having sex. But not Dr. Lyne Piché. As a psychologist, marital counsellor, and sex therapist in the Fraser Valley, Piché knows sex doesn’t just stop when a couple gets older. She has held workshops with seniors in a variety of settings, including palliative care spaces, to help them gain a better understanding of their sexual selves. Her interest in helping older adults navigate this part of their lives started when she participated in a research project as a student, which explored whether sex simply stopped as people got older.

“It really blew a lot of the myths out of the water that [sex] is something that just kind of ended,” she said. “And [now I’m] working to try to help people explore that process, because things can change, and if they do, how do you navigate that? It becomes a very powerful discussion.”

FVC: What do you think makes that discussion so powerful?

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Lyne Piché: “I think there’s often been this assumption that… as you get older, sexually you’re not an active person, which comes into all our beliefs about aging. Things like: is an aging body beautiful? Is grey hair sexy? Can you have a physical health problem and still be an active person sexually? How do our sexual selves exist, given that our bodies are changing? So I think it’s very powerful because we start really hammering into myths around what it means to grow older.”

FVC: What do you hope people take away from the work you do?

Piché: “I really hope that this idea of ‘sex is play’ is something that has had an impact… and what I mean is this idea that when we’re engaging sexually, we are… sharing pleasure together. We’re not fulfilling a script… If sex is defined as foreplay, oral sex, intercourse, then ejaculation, then we lose the ability to both be flexible as our bodies change, but also to really engage in our own sexual selves in finding pleasure and sharing pleasure.

“I like the ‘sex is play’ [concept] because I think it can help people think about it in a wider perspective and when things change—for example, if one partner is ill or a partner is having a hard time getting an erection and penetrative sex becomes difficult—understanding that there’s a lot of other ways that we can engage and enjoy pleasure together, and that doesn’t simply go away because one aspect of our sexuality is changing.”

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FVC: Can you share what advice you might have, both for aging adults and for younger people who might be worried about that part of their lives as they get older?

Piché: “Definitely talking about it. Communication is a huge piece of this. And communicating early. So, for the young group, the more you communicate with your partner about your sexual needs, the more you communicate with yourself and reflect on your sexual needs, the more you’re going to be able to build a life and have a sexual plan that involves addressing those needs.

“For people who are in the process of aging and changing, one of the examples that I like to give is that, when you’re having problems with mobility, if your hip is hurting, or you’re having a problem with your knees, you’re going to get a cane. You’re going to use a walker. You’re not just going to stop walking. And it’s a similar concept for sexuality. Just because things are changing doesn’t mean you have to take the whole thing and say, ‘Well, I’m just not a sexual being anymore’… So asking for assistance, using physical aids, and communicating are all really important ways to address some of these changes.”

FVC: It seems like this advice can be applied to many parts of our lives: communicate, ask for help.

Piché: “Exactly. Make it a priority. It’s important. And allow that to be true, that it can be a priority. These things are important. Just like your physical health is a priority, your sexual health is as well.”

Grace Kennedy

Reporter at Fraser Valley Current

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