Intimate Details
Our relationship with love and sex should grow as we age.
by Bill Donahue

All human adults share a fundamental need for love, companionship, and connection. For many, this includes a robust sex life. 
Chris F. Fariello, Ph.D., is a licensed marriage and family therapist, as well as a sex therapist. He’s also the director and founder of the Philadelphia Institute for Individual, Relational & Sex Therapy, which has offices in Philadelphia and Media. He specializes in helping patients who struggle with sexual dysfunction—“from age 16 to 96,” he says—as many as 25 percent of which are age 60 or older. Whereas one patient may be trying to recover from a past emotional or physical trauma, another may be mourning the loss of a longtime partner or the loss of vitality.
“The things we deal with are the things no one else ever hears about,” he says. “People often come to us because they are desperate. Maybe they have been referred to us by someone else who hasn’t been able to help them, or maybe they have had a partner tell them, ‘I can’t take it anymore.’” 
He offers several suggestions that may help to foster a healthy relationship with sex into our 60s, 70s, and beyond.
* Stay active. “A rolling stone gathers no moss,” he says. “Get a good amount of sleep. Manage your drinking. Don’t smoke. Keep a healthy body and mind.” He also suggests keeping active sexually; if someone is uncoupled, so to speak, go solo. “If you leave that car in the garage and don’t run the engine every now and then, it’s not going to run very well the next time you want to use it.” 
* Adapt. “Getting older means people may have to redefine how and when they have sex.” Certain positions may no longer be possible, for example. “Some people may prefer to have sex before they go to bed, but they may no longer have the energy by that late in the day.”
* Remember the roses. “Sex is a part of romance, and vice versa. Even if someone has had issues with something like erectile dysfunction, it’s important to keep the romance alive and actually like their partner or partners.”
* Seek necessary help. “There’s help out there, and it’s much more than just Viagra. If one thing doesn’t fix whatever issues you might be having, keep looking.” When Fariello first started practicing, he says resources such as self-help books were few and far between, but “now there are hundreds.” Some individuals may benefit from sessions with an experienced sex therapist.
“We spend a good deal of time helping people feel safe,” he says, adding that patients tend to spend a minimum of six to 18 months in his care. “I need to know your history of sexual expression, your anxieties, your fears. All of these factors have to come into the conversation. How important is sex to you? I’ve had some people who are no longer looking for sex, just companionship, and that might create issues when their partners are looking for sex.
“People come to us with problems they see on the surface. Our job is to discover what’s under the water.” 
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life magazine, October 2020.