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 as fulfilling as ever. 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 peak in the late teens and then gradually decline. Most men notice a difference in their sexual response by age 60 to 65. 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. Women may experience emotional changes as well. 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.

Sep. 17, 2011 See more In-depth