Sexual health and aging: Keep the passion alive
Sexual feelings don't disappear as you age. Here's how to keep the flame burning.By Mayo Clinic Staff
Sexual health is important at any age. And the desire for intimacy is timeless. While sex may not be the same as it was in your 20s, it can still be very fulfilling. Discover which aspects of sexual health are likely to change as you age — and how you and your partner can adapt.
Communication is key
To maintain a satisfying sex life, talk with your partner. Set aside time to be sensual and sexual together. When you're spending intimate time with your partner, share your thoughts about lovemaking. Help your partner understand what you want from him or her. Be honest about what you're experiencing physically and emotionally.
Sexual health and safe sex
People of all ages should know how to practice safe sex. If you're having sex with a new or different partner, always use a condom. Also talk with your doctor about other ways to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections.
If you're in a long-term monogamous relationship and you've both tested negative for sexually transmitted infections, you probably don't need to worry about protection. Until you know for sure, however, use a condom when you have sex.
Aging and men's sexual health
Testosterone plays a critical role in a man's sexual experience. Testosterone levels vary greatly among men. In general, however, older men tend to have lower testosterone levels than do younger men. Testosterone levels gradually decline throughout adulthood — about 1 percent each year after age 30 on average.
As a man ages, the penis may take longer to become erect, and erections may not be as firm. It may take longer to achieve full arousal and to have orgasmic and ejaculatory experiences. Erectile dysfunction also becomes more common. Several medications are available to help men achieve or sustain an adequate erection for sexual activity.
Aging and women's sexual health
As women approach menopause, their estrogen levels decrease, which may lead to vaginal dryness and slower sexual arousal. Emotional changes are somewhat more common in women. While some women may enjoy sex more without worrying about pregnancy, naturally occurring changes in body shape and size may cause others to feel less sexually desirable.
Sept. 25, 2014
See more In-depth
- Sexuality in later life. National Institute on Aging. http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/sexuality-later-life. Accessed June 3, 2014.
- 5 myths about sex and aging. AARP. http://www.aarp.org/relationships/love-sex/info-05-2011/sex-myths.html. Accessed June 3, 2014.
- Inelmen EM, et al. Enhancing awareness to mitigate the risk of HIV/AIDS in older adults. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research. In press. Accessed June 3, 2014.
- Inelmen EM, et al. The importance of sexual health in the elderly: Breaking down barriers and taboos. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research. 2012;24:31.
- Peate I. Sexuality and sexual health promotion for the older person. British Journal of Nursing. 2004;13:188.
- Sexuality in older adults. FamilyDoctor.org. http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/seniors/active-living/sexuality-in-older-adults.html. Accessed June 3, 2014.
- Cunningham GR, et al. Treatment of male sexual dysfunction. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 3, 2014.
- Traish AM, et al. Testosterone deficiency. The American Journal of Medicine. 2011;124:578.
- Sex and intimacy after menopause. National Women's Health Resource Center. http://www.healthywomen.org/sites/default/files/FF_SexAftMeno.pdf. Accessed July 2, 2014.
- Shifren JL. Sexual dysfunction in women: Epidemiology, risk factors, and evaluation. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 3, 2014.
- Hirsch M, et al. Sexual dysfunction associated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants: Management. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed June 3, 2014.
- Otis-Green S, et al. Enhancing the social well-being of family caregivers. Seminars in Oncology Nursing. 2012;28:246.
- 7 steps to resolve sexual desire differences. AARP. http://www.aarp.org/home-family/sex-intimacy/info-06-2012/steps-to-resolve-sexual-desire-differences.html. Accessed June 3, 2014.
- Harms RW (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 9, 2014.
- Laughlin-Tommaso SK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 23, 2014.