THE SUN-HERALD August 5, 2007

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COVER STORY>EXTRA

>HEALTHY LIFE LETS YOU LOVE A LITTLE LONGER
SLY little wonder drug Viagra may have changed the way people have sex, but it has also changed the way we talk about it. ‘‘Even little old ladies can tell jokes about Viagra and get away with it,’’ says sex therapist Dr Rosie King (pictured left). ‘‘Viagra has changed things dramatically. I call it the second sexual revolution. It has made it permissible to talk about sex, and made us realise that older people can be sexually active too.’’ The author of Good Loving Great Sex says there is no doubt that erectile dysfunction is more common in older men. And women have more difficulty having sex after menopause. About 60 per cent of 60-year-olds will experience erectile dysfunction. For men in their 70s it’s 70percent. For men in their 80s, it’s 80percent. Viagra has helped more couples have intercourse. Despite that, there is still little known about how often older people have sex. The best evidence was a 2002 global study of sexual attitudes and behaviour that surveyed 27,000 men and women aged 40 to 80 in 29 countries. It found that 80 per cent of men and 60percent of women were having sex. The same numbers said sex was important for them. ‘‘There is still a lot that we don’t know because sex and ageing is still a tremendous taboo,’’ King says. ‘‘We don’t like to think of our mothers and fathers and particularly our grandparents having sex. But we do know that sex remains important well into old age.’’ The general rule when it comes to maintaining good sex is what’s good for you is good for your sex life. King recommends a good diet and regular exercise. She says smoking is the enemy of a good erection and both men and women should limit their alcohol intake. ‘‘Regular sex helps sex,’’ she says. ‘‘If you don’t use it, you lose it. This is particularly true of erections. ‘‘Having a good relationship is also important. Even a truckload of Viagra isn’t going to fix a relationship that has soured.’’

Picture: ROBERT PEARCE

‘‘I say: ‘Do you use a condom?’ and they look at me as though I was twitty. A very small percentage of older women would go into a new relationship and use condoms.’’ For 67-year-old Dianne*, an active sex life is in the past. Ten years ago, chemotherapy for breast cancer zapped her libido and she has found her energy levels stripped by a lifetime battling chronic fatigue. ‘‘About once a month we do manage it but

chemotherapy took out any twinkle that I may have had,’’ she says. ‘‘We’ve been married 30-something years so the absence of sex wasn’t going to cause him to depart but I think it’s a lot harder for my husband than it is for me.’’ Instead, the couple goes to the movies and the theatre. They also maintain active independent lives; he goes on sailing trips and she spends time reading and gardening. ‘‘We’re still together and we still have a very

strong bond, but we’re both independent, we always have been,’’ Dianne says. ‘‘Sex was the icing on the cake and when it faded of course we both missed it. ‘‘Without the icing there is still a deep love there. That shows true love and absolute commitment. We’re lucky we had a lot of good times.’’ * Names have been changed.

into a demanding world
Hicks spends his time reading and replying to the 60 or so letters he receives a week. He has asked permission to complete his secondary education. ‘‘David’s main focus is to finish his schooling,’’ Terry Hicks says. ‘‘He wants to try to get into university. He is interested in geology and ecology. He knows there’s work out here in the mining industry and he was always interested in geology and rock formation, as well as ecology and zoology.’’ Terry Hicks has noticed other changes in his son. ‘‘David hasn’t got that nervy and strained conversation any more. He is more free-flowing when he is talking. Sometimes he’s hard to understand because he is trying to pass on as much information as he can in the short space of time [during visits]. ‘‘And each week he is looking healthier. A little overweight but still healthier. He’s lost that real puffy look he had. That’s gone now.’’ The biggest changes his father has observed aren’t physical. ‘‘David has matured. You can sit down and have an in-depth conversation with him now. Before, when he was younger, he was more blase. He thinks about everything now. ´ ‘‘He is a thinker now more than a reactor.’’ One thought that consumed David Hicks
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during his incarceration in Cuba was a possible reunion with his two children. Last month Hicks’s estranged partner, Jodie Sparrow, brought their 12-year-old son, Terry jnr, to Yatala to visit him. ‘‘He said he had seen his son and it was great to catch up with him,’’ Terry Hicks says. ‘‘David just wants to get the time done and get out, then get on with his life. He’s not going to push the system. Whatever happens he goes along with it. I think he just wants to make life as easy as possible for himself. There is no pressure on him. He just wants to get through that system and come home.’’ As the countdown for Hicks’s release ticks away, his father is concerned about his son’s reentry into a world he left behind more than five years ago in Afghanistan. ‘‘At the moment he really doesn’t understand what is going to happen. He just says, ‘I’m not talking to anyone’. We understand that, but as time gets closer, we have to be realistic about what is going to happen. ‘‘He’ll need resocialisation, and we will try to make that transformation as smooth as possible.’’ It will be Terry Hicks’s loyalty and dedication as a parent that will no doubt be essential.

LOYAL: Terry Hicks outside Yatala prison. (left) A non-contact visiting booth.

Main picture: DAVID MARIUZ
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