Isadora Alman (Photo/Lori Eanes)
Isadora Alman (Photo/Lori Eanes)

At forum, ‘Ask Isadora’ anything about sex and aging

There is no human age at which sex is not a possibility. And what’s more — it’s good for you.

That, given a broad definition of sexual activity, is the working thesis of Bay Area sexologist Isadora Alman, who has counseled legions of couples and individuals and written several books on the subject.

Alman, 79, whose syndicated advice column “Ask Isadora” made her a household name for almost two decades starting in 1984, will talk about sex at the Institute on Aging on Monday, Feb. 11.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day.

“An Evening with Sex and Relationship Columnist Isadora Alman” is her first appearance at the San Francisco institution, says the IOA’s education manager, Caitlin Morgan, and may be Alman’s last public speaking event, as she now prefers to reserve her energies for her clients and professional consults. A certified marriage and family therapist, she has a private practice in Alameda. She remains in demand as a sexologist, publishing a free Sexuality Forum at askisadora.com and a bimonthly blog on Psychology Today (tinyurl.com/isadora-blog), and is a frequent radio talk show guest.

“It’s because it’s at the IOA that she agreed to speak,” Morgan says.

The IOA’s mission is to help people “to live as independently and vibrantly as possible as they age,” says Morgan, which makes a guest speaker like Alman very … shall we say, desirable.

In a previous interview with J., Alman suggested that she belongs to a lineage of Jewish, mainly female sex therapists that began with Dr. Ruth Westheimer.

“I think [Dr. Ruth] became so well known because she was nonthreatening,” Alman told J., adding that these therapists were attracted to the field in part because “Jews are broader thinkers, and are more likely to look at things from a different angle.”

“Alman creates a safe environment to talk about just about everything. I thought it made a lot of sense to invite her here to conduct a lively discussion with people of all ages,” Morgan says.

The IOA hosts programs of interest to a demographic cross-section of Bay Area residents — younger and older, gay and straight, married and single, and everything in between.

“We get a lot of people in their 30s, 40s and 50s, all the way up to their 90s, who either recognize their own aging process or are maybe working with seniors or are simply interested in the topic,” Morgan says.

And this topic — aging and sex — polls very high among the interests of IOA audiences.

“Top of the list,” Morgan says.

Alongside the youth culture staffing the tech boom, a large contingent of baby boomers populate the Bay Area and the greater Sacramento region — some 1.2 million of them, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Some 76 million Americans were born between 1946 and 1964, and one of their characteristics as a generation, according to some sociologists, is being wealthier, more active and more physically fit than any of the generations that preceded them.

“With this new cohort of people aging in place, who tend to be healthier, many want to be able to continue having a sex life,” Morgan notes. “Even if they have a problem or a disability, they may well be able to practice sexuality with a partner in some way, and we’d like to educate the public about it.”

Alman’s talk will cover issues such as how mature sex and dating differ from such experiences earlier in life. She will offer tips for success with intimate relationships and a host of informational resources for older adults.

But we all know what the best part of the evening will be: the audience questions — and her answers.

“People want to hear both from experts and from peers,” Morgan says. “We’re in a new era in which it’s OK to admit that sexuality has a place in the lives of older adults. And that it’s OK to talk about it.”

Alman will be selling some of her books at the event, including her latest, “Doing It: Real People Having Really Good Sex.”

“Once More Into the Fray: Dating, Mating and Yes … Sex Too, Past the First Flush of Youth” 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 11 at Institute on Aging, 3575 Geary Blvd., S.F. Free, reservations required.

Laura Pall
Laura Paull

Laura Paull is J.'s Culture Editor, and was a longtime J. freelance writer before that.