Senior sex: Tips for older men

What you can do to maintain a healthy and enjoyable sex life as you grow older.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

As you age, sex isn't the same as it was in your 20s — but it can still be enjoyable. Unlike some myths suggest, sex isn't just for the young. Many seniors still enjoy their sexuality into their 80s and beyond.

A healthy sex life is both fulfilling and good for other parts of your life too — such as your physical health and self-esteem.

Senior sex: What changes as men get older?

Changes to your body or lifestyle can make you feel vulnerable or uncomfortable — especially when it comes to sex.

You may notice changes such as:

  • Low sex drive
  • Discomfort or pain during sex
  • Erection changes (erectile dysfunction)
  • Ejaculation changes (premature ejaculation or delayed ejaculation)
  • Changes to your body, hair or genitals
  • Less strength or stamina
  • Lower fertility
  • Feeling fragile or tired
  • Feeling sad or stressed
  • Changes in your partner's ability or desire for sex

You might be worried about these changes. But remember, they don't have to end your enjoyment of sex. Working with your changing body can help you keep a healthy and happy sex life. For instance, you may need to change your sexual routine to include more stimulation to become aroused.

Senior sex and health problems

Sexual well-being is closely tied to the rest of your health. How you're feeling, long-term health conditions, age-related changes or drugs can all affect you sexually.

Some surgeries and many drugs — such as blood pressure drugs, antihistamines, antidepressants and acid-blocking drugs — can affect sexual function.

Also, changes to your body — such as testosterone and sperm changes, nerve damage, bone and muscle loss, and low iron — can affect your sexual health.

And existing health conditions — such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and prostate problems — can have an impact too.

But don't give up. You and your partner can try new ways to be intimate that work with your needs and abilities.

For example, if you're worried about having sex after a heart attack, talk with your health care provider about your concerns. If arthritis pain is a problem, try different sexual positions. Or try using heat to lessen 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.

Senior sex and emotional issues

At any age, emotional issues can affect how you feel sexually. Sometimes this is good news. With fewer distractions, more time and privacy, and no worries about pregnancy — many older couples report better sex lives.

But other adults may feel stressed by health problems, money troubles and other lifestyle changes. Depression can lower your desire for sex. If you think you might be depressed, talk to your health care provider or a counselor.

Senior sex tips

Sex may not be the same for you or your partner as it was when you were younger. But sex and intimacy can still be a rewarding part of your life. Here are some tips for keeping a healthy and enjoyable sex life:

  • Talk with your partner. Even if it's hard to talk about sex, sharing your needs, wants and worries can help you both enjoy sex and intimacy more. It's OK to feel vulnerable. Your partner is likely feeling vulnerable too. Talk with each other or with the help of a therapist.
  • Visit your health care provider. Your health care provider can help you manage long-term conditions and medications that affect your sex life. If you have trouble keeping an erection, tell your provider. Erection problems may be the only warning sign of a heart problem. If you're concerned about your testosterone, ask your provider for guidance. Tell your provider about any tobacco, alcohol or illicit drug use, as these may affect your sexual health.
  • See a sex therapist. A therapist may be able to help you and your partner with specific issues. A qualified therapist can help you understand your needs, your worries and refresh your perspective. Ask your health care provider 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, you and your partner may have different sexual abilities and needs. Be open to finding new ways to enjoy sexual contact and intimacy.

  • Change your routine. Simple changes can improve your sex life. Change the time of day you have sex. Try the morning — when you're refreshed from a good night's sleep and when your testosterone levels are likely higher — 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 for romance. Try a new sexual position or find other ways of connecting romantically and sexually.

  • Bond in new ways. If being physically intimate is too much right now, find new ways to have fun together. Enjoying new experiences may boost your activity level, your mood and even your libido.
  • Laugh together. A sense of humor is important to easing the stress that can get in the way of your ability to be intimate.
  • 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 don't know that they are still at risk of sexually transmitted infections, such as herpes and gonorrhea.

One final piece of advice for keeping a healthy sex life: Take care of yourself and stay as healthy as you can.

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Don't drink too much alcohol.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Think positive.
  • Practice gratitude.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Make time for loved ones and hobbies.

See your health care provider regularly, especially if you have long-term health conditions or take prescription drugs. Other conditions and drugs can affect your sexual health, but your provider can help.

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