We Need To Talk about Sex and Ageing: An Interview with Jenny Simanowitz at TEDxVienna On the Rise

Cover image: © Cherie Hansson

At TEDxVienna ON THE RISE, drama therapist and communication coach Jenny Simanowitz talked to us about sex and ageing, dating adventures in her 70s, and wrapped up the show with roaring applause from the audience.

Her wise words linger on after her inspirational talk: “What stops women from enjoying themselves? Go for it. You have nothing to lose.”

We would certainly like to hear more from Jenny and we have the honour to catch up with her after the talk. She shares with us her insight on what we are dying to ask, from being a young-at-heart optimist to the importance of women having their own life to spotting scammers on dating sites.

The saying “Unless you’re a Swiss cheese, age doesn’t matter”, yay or nay?

Of course age matters! We are different “people” at different ages… we develop, we have different tastes, different health problems, and different desires.

The prevailing cultural and social norms of the world around us reinforce the idea that age is something negative, something to be endured, or something that makes people less capable and desirable. How can you dispel such thinking for yourself and the people around you?

I think there are movements towards this. There are lots of websites, mainly for older women, which encourage empowerment in old age. There are books about health, positive aging and even about sex in old age. Of course the “anti-aging” ideology is massive, and brings the most profit to the cosmetic industry and all the products related to it.

For myself, I just refuse to accept that old is bad. I have also learned very thoroughly, through my research as a communications trainer, that people often see you the way you see yourself. You have a huge influence over this. This is not about denying old age, it’s more about not seeing old age as a bad thing. One condition is, of course, that you stay more or less healthy – as soon as we are ill, we feel old and weak! We can’t avoid the physical deterioration and illnesses that come with age, but we can keep ourselves as healthy as possible for as long as possible through our diet, exercise, and emotional attitude.

I just refuse to accept that old is bad. I have also learned very thoroughly, through my research as a communication trainer, that people often see you the way you see yourself.

Jenny Simanowitz

In a similar fashion, the sexual desires of older women are unfortunately sidelined in mainstream pop culture and media. Is it a myth or reality that “one loses their sexuality as they get older”?

Well, we do! There’s no doubt about it. After the menopause, our estrogen level sinks and sex becomes less interesting and even, under certain circumstances, painful. The latter problem we can solve with hormone support, the lack of interest is also caused by the feeling that no one is interested in us. And that’s simply not true! As far as sex, or sex combined with friendship is concerned, there are enough men out there wanting to make contact with women of 65 plus! I know this for a fact because even at 73, I experience it!

Jane Fonda, 84, advocates for women’s sexual liberation, no matter their age. She said, “I certainly don’t want anybody to feel guilty if they’ve closed up shop. Nor should you feel, though, that just because you are of a certain age you have to stop being juicy. I didn’t mean lubricating juicy, although that is part of it too.” Is the silver population living it up just like the youngsters, regardless of the lifestyle they choose?

Some of us, but, without knowing the statistics (if there are any!), I think it’s a small minority – who have money and confidence and probably, like Fonda, a certain status. Let’s face it, which man wouldn’t want to be invited into bed by Jane Fonda… whatever her age!

How likely, do you think, are single/divorced/widowed women over 50 years of age going to spend the rest of their life alone compared to their male counterparts? And why is this so?

Men over 50, 60, or even 70 often (but not always) have no problem finding a new partner. This is partly because of society’s norms of course (I don’t have to elaborate, we all know these) but also partly because they have a different mindset.

Women are often more choosy. They want all the good points of the men they’ve had in the past, and none of the bad points! This makes their search pretty impossible!

I see it like this: The chances of finding a really good man, worthy to be the partner you want and who also loves you dedicatedly in return, may be rather small.

But is that the only solution to not “being alone”?

Dating, friends with benefits, exciting sexual encounters which, if they please both of you, can be repeated ad infinitum, are all variations that can make for an interesting and enjoyable life!

Image: © Cherie Hansson

Do you think “sexting” could be a satisfactory alternative to love-making?

It obviously doesn’t take the place of the “real thing”, but it has its advantages – it’s absolutely safe sex, you don’t have to wax or shave, or go to the hairdresser or beautician, you can do it everywhere. I’ve sexted in bed, on the couch, in the street, at the supermarket, at a meeting, you name it.

I notice that most of the men I’ve sexted with do it at work… for hours! Maybe not even just with me. Then they go a couple of times a day to the bathroom to jerk off.

Imagine how many working hours are lost worldwide every day!

Heeding the age-old adage “stranger danger”, how can we tell apart the bad eggs from the good on dating apps/sites?

Oh my God, that’s a difficult question!

Instinct, experience, and a basic, healthy suspicion!

I look carefully at photos, but more importantly, the language how men express themselves.

The first lesson is to recognise scams. I should have actually mentioned these in my talk. I even have a good friend who fell for one, although we all warned her.

Scams are overly good looking (often out of your league!) and look much younger than their stated age, live (or are staying) a long way away, work on oil rigs, in the military or are engineers of some sort, write flattering, adoring but non-erotic texts, tell you they are sincerely looking for a lifelong relationship and eternal love, etc.

Keep off!

Next, your first meeting should always be in a public place.

Other than that, don’t lie to yourself. If you have a strange feeling, back off. Never, ever give your address to someone online until you’re sure this person’s ok. And of course, never give anyone money, not even 50 cents!

I have to say, I have had no bad experiences. And I have always been treated with the utmost respect, even when the men are texting about going down on me!

That’s another thing I’ve learned: There is little relationship between how openly erotic a man is towards you and how much he respects you. I have friends who have been treated very badly by so-called “well-behaved” men who have been quite reserved sexually – in terms of dating, paying for them, etc. – but in the end turned out to be unreliable or treating them in a disrespectful way.

What is one thing that mothers don’t tell their daughters about sex and ageing?

One thing? It’s still a subject mostly never talked about because it’s seen as irrelevant.

Could you share some tips on how women should embrace the process of ageing?

There are no “tips”. Every woman is different and must make individual choices. Having said that I would recommend:

  • Staying healthy (Number 1 priority!)
  • Leaving aside the question “What will people say?” which plagues us our entire life!
  • Love your body, complete with fat, wrinkles, folds in the wrong places, etc.
  • Don’t let imperfections get you down (in my case, it’s my bad hearing!)
  • Have a few really good friends and some younger friends who you see regularly (you don’t want all your friends to die before you do!)
  • Don’t force yourself to do anything you don’t want to (and don’t have to)
  • Follow whatever interest you have passionately… whether it’s keeping bees or having erotic chats!
  • Leave your children and grandchildren in peace and get on with your life! By this, I don’t mean you shouldn’t love and help them. But they shouldn’t become the centre of your life. You’ve done your job as a mother and probably a pretty good job. Now they should take full responsibility for their lives and respect your need for a life of your own. Many women “use” their grandchildren to find meaning in their life. Grandchildren are meaningful of course. But they can’t be a substitute for your life! They (your children) decided to have a child, not you!
Image: © Cherie Hansson

You have a busy schedule – running your training and coaching business, giving talks, and performing Communication Cabaret at live shows. What do you do in your free time?

Should I say erotic chats? That I do sometimes, I have to admit. I also play the piano, and I’m an avid reader. I love meeting friends for a drink, going to theaters or art galleries and walking. I really like rambling. So if any of your readers are interested in doing a “walk and talk” with me, here I am!


To connect with the legendary and ever so positive Jenny, visit her website, follow her Facebook page, or check out her performance schedule at Cafe Korb – Jenny performs Communication Cabaret regularly there.

Stay tuned for the video of Jenny’s full talk at TEDxVienna ON THE RISE, to be posted here soon!

Reviewed and proofread by Pauline Bellmann

Loren Leong

Loren is a writer currently based in Vienna. She studied media and communications, and English literature. She likes exploring mountains, her favorite activities are rock-climbing and skitouring.

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