With communication, commitment and, sometimes, help from your doctor, sex can stay satisfying well into your later years.
As we age, we don't naturally grow out of passionate feelings or a desire for intimacy. In fact, intimacy never stops playing a key role in the quality of romantic relationships, feelings of self-esteem, and maintaining physical health.
That being said, some things are likely to change with age. Find out what to expect when it comes to sexual health and aging, and try some simple adjustments that can help keep your relationships fun and satisfying.
Men and women both go through hormonal changes with age, but they affect everyone a little differently. In women, menopause brings a decrease in estrogen. This change can lead to vaginal dryness, less interest in sex, and more difficulty reaching arousal during sexual activity. Hormonal changes that happen with menopause may also cause emotional changes, affecting your mood, stress levels, and sense of well-being. To help conquer the mental hurdles that may arise with menopause, take time to appreciate the changes in your body and practice self-love, be it through meditation or treating yourself to a nice bubble bath. Thinking positively and feeling good about yourself can help you put a little pep in your step.
In men, testosterone declines with age, causing a number of potential changes in your sex life. It may take more time, and more stimulation, to achieve arousal. Approaching this change with an open mind may be helpful. Take your time and most importantly talk with your partner. An unrushed approach can help you navigate the changes in your body.
Health conditions and their treatments can often have an impact on your sexual health. However, with communication, commitment and, sometimes, help from your doctor, there's usually a solution.
Chronic pain, heart problems, and depression are a few of the conditions that may limit your interest in sex, your ability to enjoy sex, or both. Talking with your doctor about any health-related changes in your sex life can help you find a solution, but it may not always be easy. Bringing up questions about your sexual health with your doctor may be a little uncomfortable at first, but it's important to be as honest as possible to avoid putting your health at risk.
Keep in mind that many common prescription drugs, including high blood pressure medications, antidepressants, acid-blockers, and antihistamines, can cause difficulty in the bedroom. If you've noticed changes in your sexual responsiveness since starting a new medication, it's important to discuss it with your doctor. Again, it may not be the easiest conversation to start, but a medical professional can help you navigate these personal issues and find a solution.
The changes, and losses, that often come with age can affect your mental and emotional health. Taking on new roles like being a caregiver for your partner, or being the one that's cared for, can change the dynamic of your relationship. No matter what, caring for each other and nurturing your partner in a time of need is paramount. Talk with your partner about your feelings and needs and keep the lines of communication open.
If you've recently lost a partner or loved one, spending time with friends or family can help you get through this emotional time. While you may not be ready to start dating anyone new, companionship can help you heal and get back on your feet. If you have started dating someone new, remember to play it safe! You are still at risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections, so always use protection.
Managing the physical and emotional changes that occur with time can help you take charge of your sexual health, no matter your age.
By Nancy Burtis Boudreau
National Institute on Aging, Sexuality in Later Life
National Institutes of Health, Sexuality in Older Couples: Individual and Dyadic Characteristics
Mayo Clinic, Erectile Dysfunction
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Menopause and Sexuality