It’s in The Times so it must be true

Considering I’ve written about 450 blogs on various aspects of retirement, it is perhaps remarkable that this will be the first one about, can I say it? Sex. There I’ve said it. Nobody can accuse me of pandering to the lowest common denominator to increase my readership although if it does I may have to think again. This blog is either going to double or halve my readership via Google but, before you sign off in disgust, let me assure you that there will be absolutely nothing salacious (nice word) about this blog. So that’s either a relief or a disappointment depending on your position on the subject. I’ll also try and keep the double entendres down to a minimum but for somebody brought up, man and boy, on the Carry On films it’s not going to be easy.

You might be wondering why I’ve decided to tackle this somewhat thorny topic at all at this particular stage in the development of these blogs. This, at least, I can explain. It was prompted by an article in The Times yesterday, no less, front page, top of the front page, no less, so it can’t be disreputable (see above). Well it’s a newspaper so it could be but not in the way you might imagine. The headline was, as you can see, 50 shades of grey matter: ageing minds kept sharp by sex. This is an intriguing title in a number of ways, not least by the promise that my ageing mind can be saved at all, let alone by sex. In addition you have to wonder before reading the article how they arrived at this conclusion. How do they know this?

The answer was simple, they ‘recruited’ 73 healthy (that rules me out for a start as you’ll know if you’ve read these blogs before) aged between 50 and 83 and asked them whether they ‘engaged’ in sexual activity weekly, monthly or never and then asked them to perform (don’t panic) cognitive tests to assess brain function. Apparently 37 said weekly, 26 monthly and 10 said never. Those who had sex monthly scored 4 points higher on some tests than the ‘never’ group. Disappointingly there was no indication in the article as to what kind of sex (there’s so many options these days – I think) worked best in improving cognitive functioning, so you’d just have to experiment I guess. Also rather disappointing, having lots of sex didn’t improve all cognitive functioning – you got a ’higher score in verbal fluency’, probably not surprising as I imagine you’d be spending quite a lot of time trying to persuade your partner at the age of 83 (as an unknown number of the sample were, hat off to this grope sorry group, just the one double whatsit) to engage in, who knows what, kind of activity. I’ll just have a nice cup of tea if you don’t mind.

Weirdly, the verbal fluency test involved naming as many animals beginning with ‘f’ as you could think of in one minute. I have to admit after more than a minute I came up with femur and flea. Later, much later, I came up with fox, duh. I’m not even confident about these. I think one may be a bone and I’m not sure whether a flea counts as an animal, fox was well outside the minute limit. Make of this what you will. I couldn’t possibly comment.

Again with such a promising title there was disappointment in that apparently massive amounts of whatever kind of sexual activity didn’t improve all cognitive functioning. It didn’t, for example, improve memory, I’ve forgotten what I was going to say. Or attentiveness, where was I? So maybe not all good news but then unless your partner had actually read the article, you could pretty much make up as many benefits as you liked, true or not.

This article was deemed so sensational that it even made the editorial comment section of the paper under the heading A Lot of What You Fancy Does You Good. It started with the sentence – Amid the chaos, complexity and sheer cruelty of recent events, it is a pleasure to alight on some emphatically good news. Well steady on now, I take the point but also see a couple of downsides. I mean you’re sitting reading your Agatha Christie or watching the news and there’s your partner bothering you with some exotic request or other. Well, you get my point.

And then there’s that joke about the woman who decides to spice up her and her husband’s sex life by greeting him at the door when he gets home from work, entirely naked. He takes one look at her and says, I don’t know what you’re wearing but it need ironing. You catch my drift? You don’t? I just mean a person could end up feeling rather foolish one way or another. Either way, there’s quite a lot of this sort of thing going round. There’s a new programme on TV well after the watershed about Baby Boomers and various topics. The first of which was Boomers and sex, they actually called it ‘Love’ but we all know what they’re talking about, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, does she go? Does she? If you’re not a Monty Python fan you won’t have the faintest idea what I’m talking about, which may be just as well. Certainly I have no idea.

As I’m finding, there is so much about retirement that is endlessly fascinating and that there are a number of topics that come under the ‘unmentionable’ heading. I won’t say that s-x and old age is quite in the not-to-be-discussed section of retirement themes, although our children may disagree, but it is close. I have never regarded this blog as pioneering, you know pushing back the envelope of what’s acceptable for us old gits to discuss, I mean I can’t see sex being a topic of conversation at the average bridge club, train spotters group etc. So Mary, how often are you having sex these days and what’s your favourite version? That’s it, I’m up to my 1000 words and just in time, I’m teetering on the edge of salaciousness and I’m sure we’re all agreed that’s not good.

PS. Mrs Summerhouse says she will check this to make sure I have been writing in line with the standards readers have come to expect from this blog. So if you think it isn’t, you know who to blame. She’s done that now and her only request for a change was for me to make it clear I wasn’t a regular Times reader. I guess retirement does that to you?

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