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As a person ages, their body, sexuality, and sexual health needs change, too.
These changes may mean that some things will need to be done differently, but growing older doesn’t have to mean the end of someone’s sexual activity. People can have a healthy, enjoyable sex life at any age.
Sex is an important part of emotional and physical health. Sexual activity can create closeness and be a way to express feelings for a partner. It also benefits physical health by reducing stress and can make someone feel good about themself.
Sometimes, as a person’s body and sexual functioning change, they may worry about how partners will react.
They may feel embarrassed or nervous, and they may stop having any sexual activity.
Things they can do:
Talk to a doctor. Many adults have sexual changes as they age, but few of them talk to their doctors about their symptoms. However, a doctor may be able to help improve a person’s sexual health by treating any medical condition(s) that could be contributing to sexual changes. They can also find medicines that don’t affect sexual activity.
Talk to a partner. It may be uncomfortable at first for someone to talk with their partner about sex, but it’s important to communicate. Talking about their feelings, concerns, and what each person wants from their shared sexual experiences are examples of what people can discuss together.
Experiment. For some people, changing the routine can be helpful. Allowing more time for arousal, trying new positions, and being creative may help in finding new ways to be intimate together. Someone can spend time exploring what feels good for them.
Practice safer sex. Older adults are still at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). With new partners, people can get tested for STIs together before they become physically intimate with each other. To prevent STIs, always use condoms when having sex.
Changes Over Time
When a person approaches menopause, estrogen levels in the body begin to decrease. This may lead to vaginal dryness and thinning, which can make vaginal intercourse feel uncomfortable or even painful. A lower sex drive can also be a side effect of decreased estrogen levels, and it might take longer for a person to become sexually aroused, too. Personal lubricants, longer periods of foreplay, and types of sexual activities that don’t involve vaginal penetration can help a person to become sexually aroused without experiencing any discomfort or pain. If someone is experiencing changes to their sexual functioning that concern them, they may also choose to find out more about things like vaginal moisturizers or hormone therapy. Talking to a doctor, pharmacist, counsellor, or sexuality educator can help.
Over the age of 50, testosterone levels sometimes begin to decrease. People may notice a lower sex drive, and it may take longer for sexual arousal and erections to happen. Erections may not be as firm or last as long as they did before, and it may take longer for ejaculation to occur, too. Allowing more time for arousal, trying different activities that don’t involve the penis, and trying different positioning devices (such as pillows or wedges) may help.
Conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression may make having sex more challenging. Health problems can also decrease sex drive or affect the body’s ability to become aroused or have an orgasm. Erectile Dysfunction (ED) can happen at any age and is often connected to the medical conditions listed above as well as to emotional and mental health issues.
Talking to a doctor about how these conditions may affect a person’s sex life can help.
Many older adults take one or more prescription medicines. All medicines have side effects, and some may affect sexual activity. Talking to a pharmacist or a doctor about how medications can cause sexual changes can help.
Society has a very narrow definition of beauty and attractiveness, and because of this, people may see themselves or their partners as unattractive. Feeling and thinking negative thoughts about their own or their partners’ bodies may stop people from being intimate or wanting to have sex. If these thoughts are causing concerns, people can reach out and talk with a professional (such as a doctor or counsellor).