by Tilak S. Fernando

Is it a wish, myth or a fact that men reach their passionate prime at the age of 18 and women at 34? If a graph recording of their performances is taken, should a seemingly but positively downhill all the way a reality? Perhaps not! On the contrary while this long accepted wisdom is losing ground, the age for a fine and fulfilling romance has shifted dramatically onwards and upwards.

This topic takes me back to one of my interviews with a prominent Sri Lankan in London, which I carried in the Sri Lankan Sunday Times under the heading once, " Dixon Kotelawela shares mallung with British Aristocracy". The interviewee was none other than the late Dixon Kotelawela, cousin of Sir John Kotelawela, one time Sri Lanka's famous and favourite Prime Minister.

At the time Dixon was in his seventies and despite having undergone a by-pass heart surgery and becoming a total vegetarian was looking quite fit, virile and young looking for his age. During the interview, in the presence of his lady friend, (the charming lady who happened to be the daughter of a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II) I wanted to know the secret behind his young and virile looks at his age. Had I paused the same question to Sir John I am sure I would have received an appropriate answer such as, " Between the blankets in London", similar to the one he had given to ' Fly by Night' many years ago, to a Sunday Observer columnist who wrote a gossip column. However, Dixon was very discreet in his reply and quipped: " My dear fellow, its not the chronological age that counts but the functional age". Naturally, there and then it dawn on me one thing, that the age factor for a fine and fulfilling romance has never being the case.

According to modern Western psychologists, the over 50's are more likely to be at their sexual peak than half their age groups. One of the main reasons to substantiate such a claim has been that " men and women in the over 50 age group have more time and freedom than any previous generation and certainly they are not going to spend their time limited to only baby sitting their grandchildren.

Statistics taken out of a British Marriage Guidance Organisation reveal that ' people over the age of 50 have never been more attractive and never had more leisure time now than before.

Prominence has been given always to young and shapely women in modern times and quite often they have been used as sex symbols and exposed in commercial advertisements to sell goods with a subtle hint that both are saleable items! As women reached their maturity they have been used by men folk as a joke at their gatherings or clubs while adjusting their tie knots and sipping whiskey by categorising them into a five-stage life drama to tickle them with laughter!

They make enormous joy out of comparing a woman at 19 with that of Africa - 'virgin and unexplored'. At the age of 25 they say she is like Sri Lanka -' beautiful and full of promise'. When 35 they say she is like the USA -'quite sophisticated and powerful'. When she is 40-45 she is compared to the European Union -' everyone is eager to enter' - but when she is 60 she is like Siberia - 'everyone knows where it is but no one dare goes there'! The status of a woman of 40 is also defined as: " She never tells, She never yells and by George she enjoys like hell"!

The times are changing in the 21st century to a greater extent and sex dictated by the urgent haste of youth is said to be wasted on the young. It is said that ' mature wine is more rounded and full bodied' indicating that the yearning for intimacy is as strong between 50 and 70 year olds as it was at 30 - meaning older you are, the more likely you are to be have the skills and understanding to make a relationship fulfilling.

Out of a sample of 3000 people who had received advice on sex education in a UK guidance centre, men who participated were aged between 18-81 and women between 17-83. A decade ago it was very rare to come across many older people wanting to celebrate their sexuality as opposed to present day trends where over 50's were raised during the great struggle for sexual liberation. Many in Britain have become sexually active during 1960s when the society was talking about sex for the first time. Although ' that young generation' has grown older by three decades, they say they are not going to put it way now!

With the changing trends and moving with the times, the number of second marriages in England with rising number of healthy widowed women or divorced men are having an impact on the issue which make them enter into second marriages in their 50s and 60's, who are experiencing sexual intimacy all over again.

Men and women past the age of 50 have the opportunity to enjoy " the best sex of their lives" but every opportunity has its associated problems too, says a friend of mine, a sex therapist. According to him, ' older loving couples must overcome years of making love the same old way, inhibitions are harder to shake off, good communication becomes more critical than ever and arousal often needs mutual participation. But all in all, lovemaking can still be the most joyous and wonderful part of our lives at any age!