We think that the work of Artist Magda Rakita, about intimacy and sex in older age is really powerful. She photographed and interviewed 6 people about their personal views and thoughts about sex. This is exactly the kind of story which shatters so many stereotypes. Very inspirational.

Words by Magda Rakita and the people she interviewed — Jacquie, Joey, Leslie, Colin, Ruth, Mary, Tim and Kay. 

All Photographs by Magda Rakita.

Magda: Feeling lonely and depressed upon retirement, and after two marriages, Elfriede Vavrik went to see her doctor. His suggestion to ‘help herself’ wasn’t appreciated and so she decided instead to place a ‘wanted’ ad in one of the broadsheets. Little did she know at the time that her ad was to generate such an enthusiastic response, including from men twenty years her junior. She went on dates and, contrary to her upbringing, began to engage in casual sex. She committed her experiences to paper in Nude Beach, a warts-and-all account of sexual pleasure in later life.

"When one lifts the lid on old age, one might be surprised by the variety and veracity of sexual appetites and extent to which people continue to demand, and experience, intimacy."

Magda Rakita.

Jacquie by Magda Rakita.

Elfriede is an inspiration for this project.

We know surprisingly little about sexuality late in life, assuming that older people don’t have either the appetite or possibility to have sex. To grow old means to enter a life of boredom, bad smells, and ill health. Yet, when one lifts the lid on old age, one might be surprised by the variety and veracity of sexual appetites and extent to which people continue to demand, and experience, intimacy.

This project was created with the intention of beginning a conversation about sex and intimacy in old age as well as an important means of changing our views on older people. Perhaps it might also inspire some seniors to enjoy their lives a bit more, seeing they are in good company. With a rapidly rising number of so-called ‘grey divorces’, many take advantage of development of technology to look for new partners, or casual encounters, with help of the internet and medicine. Sex, after all, is a symbol of youth and vitality. To better understand ‘what old people are up to’ might ultimately trigger a change in our attitudes towards them.

"In the 60+ world there’s no reason for anybody to be on their own in today’s life. And it's extremely easy to meet people. With today’s technology – with the internet you can meet five people a week if you wanted. And people are willing to meet you."

Colin.

Leslie by Magda Rakita.

Jacquie: Sex when you are younger hasn’t got the potential as having sex as older woman because you have all the life experience and your acceptance of your body your acceptance and no judgment about other people.... and your love of people.... So as an older woman you are liberated ... I needed to refine my femininity through dance and burlesque. Because I always loved it, I loved dressing up, I’ve always been very avant-garde in my clothing and stuff... Burlesque gave me the avenue to dress up and be glamorous the way I needed to be. I think it’s the most amazing... I think its one of the most important things that we do is have sex with somebody ... and its very important to really let go and enjoy being who you are with somebody because not to you are only living half a life. In my early life part of it was suppressed by guilt, other peoples judgment... and other people make you feel guilty about your body, make you feel guilty about this that and the other... there is no fucking guilt. Be who you are, be sexy... Nobody has the right to judge anybody.

"I said I don’t know if I can go like this... Christ I'm 70 for God’s sake... I really do want to have sex....And suddenly it was raining men! Wow, it is fantastic. I'm 69 and I'm fanciable. That is cool – that really is cool. Because... I didn’t expect that."

Joey.

Colin by Magda Rakita.

Joey: I had given myself a new name...I didn’t want to be Joey anymore because I wasn’t. So I called myself Cosmo... And Cosmo was murdered that night on that beach...I've been I think 25 years I've been celibate since then. ...after rape there is no intimacy at all. I couldn’t bear people, I was frightened of men, I became very frightened of me. Then I said I don’t know if I can go like this... Christ I'm 70 for God’s sake... I really do want to have sex....And suddenly it was raining men! Wow, it is fantastic. I'm 69 and I'm fanciable. That is cool – that really is cool. Because... I didn’t expect that.

Leslie: To me it made me feel again like a teenager in a sense. Of not knowing, what does he want? What do I want? Does it mesh? Are we both on the same track? And then, I was waiting for a phone call – just silly things. I was very surprised how preoccupied I became by this relationship. Because I had a very full life before he entered it. So it surprised me how much time I spent thinking about it. But it took a long time – we were both very cautious. And again, I don’t know how typical this is or not. But we were both cautious about being physically intimate. So it was quite a long period of just kiss on greeting and a kiss when we said goodbye. Then ultimately, that did happen after several months. We don’t know how much time we have together so why not enjoy what we have.

"Sex when you are younger hasn’t got the potential as having sex as older woman because you have all the life experience and your acceptance of your body and no judgment about other people.....So as an older woman you are liberated."

Jaquie.

Ruth by Magda Rakita.

Colin: In the 60+ world there’s no reason for anybody to be on their own in today’s life. And it's extremely easy to meet people. And the image of having to go out to a club or to a social get together club is a fallacy. With today’s technology – with the internet you can meet five people a week if you wanted. And people are willing to meet you. In fact other people’s connections have all been a failure. Their perception of what I was looking for – Miss Sexy and so and so has never been successful. We don’t actually call them dates. We call them meets. We're just meeting up you know. And the conversations would surprise some younger people. Would surprise with the openness of the conversations. Because we haven’t got time. Even when I said they're reserved they're not. So when you talk about intimacy in the bedroom it's quite an open discussion and no holds barred if you know what I mean.

Ruth by Magda Rakita.

Ruth: I am considering in the next two or three months, just to go out there a bit more. And see what happens. But I have the problem of when and how do I tell them. Do I tell them at the beginning? Do I wait until we're in bed and I say oh, by the way sorry about this. I've got cancer... I don’t know – there’s nowhere to go for advice. How do I manage this? I mean being in your 60’s and going on a date. You know the other person is going to have problems as well – the man is also going to have baggage. Doubts and insecurities. But I've got ones that are visible. And that is very difficult for me.


Mary: He was my boyfriend so I've known him since I was 15. I must have been about 60 or 58, where we were suddenly together with no other distractions. We had no distractions from the children. And it was just us. And we had to learn to live together just the pair of us. And we built up a different relationship. In fact, that relationship is the relationship that one builds up when you both retire, because you're both at home all the time. I mean – you hear people when the husband retires that, they find it very difficult being in the house together. We don’t. We don’t have to put on an act or anything. We are who we are. And the important thing is we made each other who we are. It's more emotional now. It's not like when you're young – it's just – again, it's comfort in knowing each other. I can't explain it any other way.

Tim by Magda Rakita.

Tim:  My intimacy with Jane is totally different from any other type of relationship. The intimacy that I have with Jane... is based on years of love and understanding. And arguments, and touch and looks... if you want to have really satisfying relationship... then it's got to be based on an understanding and an acceptance of who you both are. And that's what’s important.

Kay by Magda Rakita.

Kay:  I've started writing a poem about that... Which is like somebody’s body that you know really well being like a landscape, like a landscape that you know. And bits that you remember and bits that you linger at. You love the smell of it or the air... It's all – it's kind of all the senses. And I love that. I think that’s kind of – maybe that's an older thing. It's not so urgent... It's much more sensual...

You can find out more about Magda Rakita at www.magdarakita.com

If you liked the story above, we think you will also like these related stories from our In—Common library.

Youth has no age

09.12.16 - Film & Photography

Natalia Evelyn Bencicova, the 23 year old award-winning Slovakian photographer, recently told The Age (more)

Aging Gracefully

13.12.16 - Film & Photography

Interview with photographer Karsten Thormaehlen, who believe we all need to get a more (more)

Aging can be fun

02.01.17 - Film & Photography

Read our short interview with artist Cristiana Negoescu about her photography project 'Aging can (more)

Read more of our In-Common stories here