While there are some age-related sexual changes in both men and women, the ability to have and enjoy sex usually continues into old age. Both the sexual experience and the intimacy it provides remain important. But there is no doubt that there are changes going on, starting right in midlife.Understanding these changes will allow you to discuss them with your partner, to make changes that keep you sexually active, or to consult a doctor or health-care practitioner if you are unsure about the cause. The most common and most noticeable changes are:
Desire is both physical and emotional. It is triggered, in both men and women, by the hormone testosterone, which decreases with age. Although desire tends to decrease with age, this decrease shouldn’t result in radical changes in your sexual activity. So if a decrease in desire is affecting your sex life, you might want to make some changes that will spice up your relationship as you enter middle and old age.
As we age, our bodies change and we may encounter health issues that affect our sexual activity. Most sexual problems do start out being purely physical, but if you don’t deal with them or talk about them, they will affect how you feel about sex and then what you do about sex. And it’s these psychological causes – such as fear and anxiety, loss in confidence, stress, relationship problems – that can take their toll on your sex-life. But armed with a little bit of information and a lot of openness, you can get (and keep) your sex-life on track as you continue to grow older and wiser. Remember that your doctor or health-care professional is there to help you.
Depression is common among aging adults and it can have a dampening effect on all your interests and activities, including sex. As we age, we may experience many changes in our work (retirement), family (death of a spouse) and personal lives (ill health) that can be difficult to deal with and may cause depression. Sometimes we withdraw from social contacts and stimulation (including sexual activity). For someone who has had a good sex life, lack of sexual activity makes the depression more real. If you or your partner is suffering from depression, talk to your doctor or health-care professional and seek help.
Arthritis and Osteoporosis
Conditions like early arthritis and osteoporosis are a reality for many people, even in their middle years. If either of these are an issue for you:
Try out new sexual positions that may make sex more comfortable.
Do a little “hands-on” research and explore different ways of giving each other pleasure.
Try putting a pillow or a cushion under your hips.
Having sex takes up about as much energy as walking up two flights of stairs, so sex is rarely dangerous, even if you have a heart condition or have had a stroke. Many heart patients have learned, the easy way, that having heart disease, a heart attack or heart surgery doesn’t mean an end to sex. Some of the physical changes associated with a stroke can interfere with intimate relations. You may not have feeling on one side of your body, or you may have problems speaking. If you or your partner is being treated for a heart or circulatory condition, talk to your doctor about risk factors.
Cancer or cancer surgery may have a negative physical and emotional impact on a person’s ability to have sex. Radiation therapy and certain drugs may make you feel ill. Surgeries, such as breast removal, can cause depression and seriously harm a woman’s sense of herself as a sexual being.
People with dementia continue to need loving, safe relationships and caring touch. However, dementia will affect each person differently. Some people with dementia may become demanding and insensitive to the needs of others, and less able to provide caring support for their family and friends. They may also experience changes in the expression of their sexuality. Some people continue to desire sexual contact while others may lose interest in sexual activity. Others may display inappropriate sexual behaviors.
Many medications have an impact on desire and performance. Drugs that control high blood pressure, for example, can reduce desire and impair erection in men and lubrication in women. Antihistamines, antidepressants and acid-blocking drugs can also affect sexual function.
Erection & Lubrication Issues
Many men find that their erections are not as automatic as they used be. When they do happen they are not always as hard and they take longer to firm up. Many men also find that their orgasms are not as strong and they need to wait longer before getting another erection or having another orgasm. This should not be confused with impotence. Also, many women are slower to lubricate during sex.
Sometimes sex just isn’t possible
There are many circumstances where sex just isn’t possible. You may no longer be with your partner or either one of you may be undergoing treatment for an illness that makes sex just out the question. You can always consider masturbation or nurture other forms of intimacy that allow you to communicate with each other and share your love and passion.