This article originally appeared on VICE Netherlands.
Roelien is one of my best friends. She’s 76 years old, and happens to be my grandma. I’m 19, but the 57-year age gap has no impact on our friendship – I hang out with her all the time, and we talk for hours about nothing and everything.
The only topic we’ve never really discussed is sex. Mainstream culture so often excludes older people from conversations around sex, but I was interested to hear about my grandma’s sex life. Is it so different from my own? What changes when we get older? Has sex itself changed over time?
Someone with decades of experience might have some wisdom to impart on a newbie like me, so I decided to ask her all the questions I’d never dared to ask before.
VICE: Morning, nana. When was the last time you had sex? How was it?
Nanna Roelien: Last week. I was getting ready for bed and I put a few drops of perfume on, because I know your grandpa likes the scent. I caressed him a bit and we did it before going to sleep.
Do you often do it before bed?
Not often. I actually prefer mornings, because I’m less tired. It also gives me the energy to face the day.
People assume seniors don’t have sex. Is that right?
I don’t think so. There are plenty of old people with flourishing sex lives. I usually do it once a week.
Okay, that’s rough – my grandma has a more active sex life than I do. What’s changed over time?
It takes me longer to get excited. It’s the sort of thing people your age probably don’t have to think about. I recently realised I was having a hard time reaching an orgasm, but you have to be patient. Older women can’t get wet easily – that’s why I use lube. But even if it takes a little longer, I still love it.
How is sex different now?
Unfortunately, I’m not as flexible, so I can’t twist into different positions. When you’re young, you jump on someone – and boom. That’s not possible anymore. So we don’t do anything too wild, we keep it pretty simple. It was more exciting before, sure, but now there’s a feeling of fulfilment, of being happy together. Also, I can still orgasm. So, no need to worry, you can have good sex even at 76.
I’d say it also has a lot to do with your partner, doesn’t it?
True, but you also have to stay desirable for the other person. That’s a big part of the equation. Keep dressing nicely, don’t let yourself go. It might seem old-fashioned, but I believe in it. And the same goes for men – they have to keep taking good care of themselves! It’s also important to keep things spicy – to do something daring every now and again.
What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?
Your grandfather and I were driving to Friesland, in the Netherlands, and while we were en route I stroked his leg – something I often do when he’s driving. Suddenly, we really wanted to get it on. We stopped in a car park and went into a nearby field. We later realised there was a farmer nearby. He must have seen the whole show.
Another time, in the Ardennes [Belgium], we stopped to have a picnic and stretch out in the grass. It wasn’t until after we were done that I realised how close we were to the road, and that all the cars passing by could see us. I was 60 at the time.
The dunes are also a good place to do it – you can hear the sound of the ocean. But you have to take a towel, otherwise you get sand in your butt.
I’m less and less sure which of us has the more exciting sex life. Do you talk about it with your friends?
No, not at all. You’re the first person I’ve ever discussed it with so openly. I’ve never talked about it with my friends, even when I was young. And you?
Yeah, we talk about it really openly. I think that’s one big difference between our generations.
Well, it depends on your circle. In the 1960s, people started to think about sexuality differently – it was the sexual revolution. Some people thought it was normal to do it with more than one partner at a time, but I was always very careful and monogamous. The pill had just come on the market, so sex wasn’t just for procreation anymore. All of a sudden, people were open about sex – but only in certain circles.
My first time, I was 17. How old were you?
I was 17, too. In those days, it was normal to have sex pretty young, because you’d get married at 16. The first time was horrible. I thought to myself: ‘Never again.’ I changed my mind, of course.
Did you have many different sexual partners?
I’ve slept with three men, but I had a serious relationship with each of them. I didn’t need anyone else, because I was always satisfied with those sexual relationships.
Three partners, but more importantly, 60 years of experience – do you have any advice?
The most important thing is to dedicate plenty of time to foreplay. And don’t put your clothes on right after sex. You have to kiss and touch each other – that’s what makes sex so nice.
Men want to fire their shot right away, but that’s not how it should be. If you put your clothes right back on and leave for work, you miss out on so much. It’s so important to linger in bed with your partner afterwards, to take time to enjoy each other.
I’ll keep that in mind. Wow, I have to admit, you’ve surprised me. You were so open and didn’t evade any of my questions. I didn’t expect that.
Sex is part of life, whether you’re young or old. Even the oldest lady in the nursing home could be in bed with a vibrator right now. You never know.