As you age, sex isn't the same as it was in your 20s — but it can still be satisfying. Contrary to common myths, sex isn't just for the young. Many seniors continue to enjoy their sexuality into their 80s and beyond. A healthy sex life not only is fulfilling, but also is good for other aspects of your life, including your physical health and self-esteem.
As men age, testosterone levels decline and changes in sexual function are common. These physiological changes can include:
- A need for more stimulation to achieve and maintain erection and orgasm
- Shorter orgasms
- Less forceful ejaculation and less semen ejaculated
- Longer time needed to achieve another erection after ejaculation
You may feel some anxiety about these changes, but remember they don't have to end your enjoyment of sex. Adapting to your changing body can help you maintain a healthy and satisfying sex life. For example, you may need to adjust your sexual routine to include more stimulation to become aroused.
Your health can have a big impact on your sex life and sexual performance. Poor health or chronic health conditions, such as heart disease or arthritis, make sex and intimacy more challenging. Certain surgeries and many medications, such as blood pressure medications, antihistamines, antidepressants and acid-blocking drugs, can affect sexual function.
But don't give up. You and your partner can experiment with ways to adapt to your limitations. For example, if you're worried about having sex after a heart attack, talk with your doctor about your concerns. If arthritis pain is a problem, try different sexual positions or try using heat to alleviate joint pain before or after sexual activity.
Stay positive and focus on ways of being sexual and intimate that work for you and your partner.
At any age, emotional issues can affect your sexuality. Many older couples report greater satisfaction with their sex life because they have fewer distractions, more time and privacy, and no worries about pregnancy.
On the other hand, some older adults feel stressed by health problems, financial concerns and other lifestyle changes. Depression can decrease your desire for and interest in sex. If you feel you might be depressed, talk to your doctor or a counselor.
Sex may not be the same for you or your partner as it was when you were younger. But sex and intimacy can continue to be a rewarding part of your life. Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy and enjoyable sex life:
- Talk with your partner. Even if it's difficult to talk about sex, openly sharing your needs, desires and concerns can help you both enjoy sex and intimacy more.
- Visit your doctor. Your doctor can help you manage chronic conditions and medications that affect your sex life. If you have trouble maintaining an erection, ask your doctor about treatments.
- See a sex therapist. A therapist may be able to help you and your partner with specific concerns. Ask your doctor for a referral.
Expand your definition of sex. Intercourse is only one way to have a fulfilling sex life. Touching, kissing and other intimate contact can be rewarding for you and your partner.
As you age, it's normal for you and your partner to have different sexual abilities and needs. Be open to finding new ways to enjoy sexual contact and intimacy.
Adapt your routine. Simple changes can improve your sex life. Change the time of day you have sex to a time when you have the most energy. Try the morning — when you're refreshed from a good night's sleep — rather than at the end of a long day.
Because it might take longer for you or your partner to become aroused, take more time to set the stage for romance. Try a new sexual position or explore other ways of connecting romantically and sexually.
Don't give up on romance. If you've lost your partner, it can be difficult to imagine starting another relationship — but socializing is well worth the effort for many single seniors. No one outgrows the need for emotional closeness and intimacy.
If you start an intimate relationship with a new partner, use a condom. Many older adults are unaware that they are still at risk of sexually transmitted infections, such as herpes and gonorrhea.
One final piece of advice for maintaining a healthy sex life: Take care of yourself and stay as healthy as you can. Eat a healthy diet, stay active, don't drink too much alcohol, and don't smoke or use illegal drugs. See your doctor regularly, especially if you have chronic health conditions or take prescription medications.
July 10, 2014
- Age page: Sexuality in later life. National Institute on Aging. http://www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Publications/sexuality.htm. Accessed May 12, 2014.
- Corona G, et al. Sexual function of the aging male. Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2013;27:581.
- Lochlainn MN, et al. Sexual activity and aging. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association. 2013;14:565.
- Nippoldt TB (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 22, 2014.