You would think it would get easier for us to talk about sex as we get older, but unfortunately it does not. But just because people don’t talk about it, doesn’t mean that people stop having sex as they get older. In fact, many of our elders are having sex, more than you might think!
Here are some recent statistics for you to consider.
Among people 60 and older surveyed in a recent US study:
· 50% of men and 40% of women were sexually active
· 29% of men and 25% of women over the age of 80 reported still engaging in sexual activity
· 46% of men and 33% of women over age 70 reported that they masturbate
· Men and women reported that sex over the age of 70 is more emotionally satisfying than in their 40s
The facts of life: What happens as we age?
There are several NORMAL age-related changes that happen to varying degrees for all of us as we age.
The vagina narrows and shortens.The vaginal walls thin and become less flexible.Vaginal dryness increases.Sexual desire (libido) decreases.Orgasms may be less intense.Hormone levels (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone) decrease with menopause.
Sensitivity of the penis decreasesIt may take 2-3 times longer for men to get an erectionErections may not be as rigidIt may take longer to climax and ejaculation may not always occurMore men experience ED (erectile dysfunction, impotence)Men’s prostate gland normally increases in size with ageAfter age 60, levels of testosterone decrease in many men
These changes can be made worse by other age-related health conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, dementia, cancer, obesity and high blood pressure.
As people live longer, they are more likely to live with chronic health conditions and may be taking more medications which could have unwanted sexual side effects. The types of medications most likely to cause sexual side effects are:
· High blood pressure medications (beta-blockers)
Ask your healthcare provider about possible sexual side effects whenever you are prescribed a new medication. Unfortunately, many people are too uncomfortable or shy to talk with their healthcare providers and even with their sexual partners about any problems or concerns they might be having.
The good news is that there is a lot you and your partner can do to help keep your life “between the sheets” from getting old, even as you age. Talking with your own partner about any sexual concerns or changes you may have noticed is the first step towards maintain your sexual relationship. Next, talk to your healthcare provider about any sexual problems you might have. Don’t forget to seek inspiration from movies, books, sensuality boutiques and don’t be afraid to get creative. Finally, sex therapists and specialized physical therapists are great resources along your sexual journey. Stay tuned for future posts to read about more specific ways you can keep your sex life healthy and rewarding.
Amy Harris MS, RN, CNM is a certified nurse-midwife, founder and health writer for Well-Scripted.