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Sexual Satisfaction and Aging

Oct 23, 2012

 

At 60, Janet was new to the dating scene. After almost 40 years of marriage, she and her husband went through a rocky divorce. She found it difficult to trust men again, but felt she was too young to spend the rest of her life alone. She wanted to meet someone special, someone she could spend quality time with, laugh with, and, yes, have sex with.

But the idea of dating again – and starting a new relationship - was daunting. She looked at some dating websites for singles over 50, but was unsure of how much dating and sex had changed since she was in her 20s. How would she ask her prospective partner about STDs? Should she get tested herself? And what would sex be like now that she was past menopause

Janet’s concerns aren’t unusual.

It’s probably no surprise to hear that sex changes for us as we get older. Physically, we might be slowing down a little. We might have back pain or arthritis to contend with. Men might be facing erectile dysfunction – the inability to get or maintain a firm enough erection for sex. Women past menopause may have diminished sex drive or vaginal dryness.

Sex can change emotionally as well. It’s especially difficult for those without partners, who may be mourning the death of a spouse or working through a difficult divorce. It may be hard to imagine having sex with someone else. We may feel more self-conscious about our bodies or worry about our performance.

But there’s no reason that Janet – or any of us – shouldn’t enjoy a healthy, satisfying sex life well into later life. Our sexuality is part of who we are and that doesn’t change because we’re aging. In fact, some older people find that they have more satisfying sex when they’re older, since they know themselves better and know what they like sexually. They have more privacy, with the kids grown and out of the house. And there are no longer fears of unplanned pregnancy.

Here are some tips for satisfying sex as we age.

Talk to your partner

If you feel that sex is changing for you, be open about it. For example, if you have arthritis and something hurts, let your partner know. Together, you can make adjustments to make sex more comfortable and enjoyable. Most likely, your partner will be glad you spoke up.

Talking about your relationship is important, too. Keeping your relationship healthy can help with any intimacy problems you may be facing.

Talk to your doctor

Your doctor can help with a variety of sexual complaints. For instance, erectile dysfunction (ED) becomes more common as men get older. But ED can be treated through pills, injections, vacuum pumps, or even implant surgery. For women, vaginal changes during menopause can make intercourse uncomfortable. A gynecologist can recommend a lubricant or, if necessary, prescribe hormone replacement therapy.

Some people feel embarrassed to go to their doctor for a sexual issue. They may feel that, at their age, they shouldn’t be thinking about sex. But remember, sexual health is an important part of your overall health. Your doctor should understand this and be there to help. If that’s not the case, try a different doctor. And if a certain treatment doesn’t seem to work, don’t hesitate to ask about other options.

Exercise

Many health conditions can affect sexuality. For example, both diabetes and heart disease are associated with erectile dysfunction. Some conditions may be beyond our control. However, there is a lot we can do to keep our bodies healthy and, in turn, keep our sex lives satisfying.

The common tips for good health apply here. Eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising are all good goals. Exercise can even make sex better because it keeps us strong, limber, and releases endorphins that make us feel content. It can also help alleviate anxiety and depression.

Educate yourself about STDs

People are often uncomfortable talking about safe sex or assume that since a woman is past menopause, it’s not necessary to use protection. However, STD rates are rising among older people. Some STDs, like genital herpes, don’t have symptoms all the time. Often, people are unaware they even have an STD and unknowingly transmit it to a partner.

Before starting a sexual relationship, be sure you know your STD status and your partner’s status. Talk to your partner about how you’ll have sex safely.

Ask for help if you need it

It’s normal to feel apprehensive about sex and relationships sometimes. If you feel you need some extra help, don’t hesitate to ask for it. This could mean asking your friends to introduce you to other singles, if you’d like to meet a new partner. Or, it could mean asking your doctor about STD testing.

For some, it helps to talk to a professional. A counselor, for example, can help you work through any depression or anxiety that may be holding you back. A member of the clergy could help you through the grieving process after the death of a spouse or divorce.

Relax and enjoy

Don’t let aging get in the way of enjoying sex. You may need to make some modifications and adjustments, but satisfying sex can be possible at any age.

To learn more about some factors that may affect sexuality as we age, the following links might help:

Diabetes and Female Sexual Satisfaction

Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction

Dealing with Arthritis

Talking about HSDD

STD Tests for the Elderly

STDs and Safe Sex

Discussing Erectile Dysfunction with Your Partner

Back Pain isn’t the End of Sexual Satisfaction

Erectile Dysfunction and Heart Trouble

Sex, Condoms, and Women Over 50

Painful Intercourse for Women

Andropause or “Low Testosterone”

Sex Health and Aging for Women

Exercise and Sex Health

Has sex changed for you as you’ve gotten older? Feel free to leave us a comment. You can do so anonymously, if you prefer.

Resources
Delaware County News Network
“Sexuality Matters: Staying sexually happy as we age”
(October 11, 2012)
http://www.delconewsnetwork.com/articles/2012/10/11/life/doc5076f58bc065a765124624.txt

Sexual Medicine Society of North America
“Discussing Sex with the Elderly”
http://www.sexhealthmatters.org/for-healthcare-providers/discussing-sex-with-the-elderly