Overview, statistics and maintaining satisfaction

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Aging can cause changes that can affect a person’s sex life. Health conditions and changing hormone levels can impact a person’s sex life, but people can take steps to maintain sexual satisfaction as they age.

Age does not have to limit a person sexually. Older people can actually experience a sense of liberation that they did not have in their youth, as the responsibilities and risks of unwanted pregnancy are less.

This article examines sex and aging, the changes to expect, and how people can lead fulfilling sex lives as they age.

According to National Institute on Aging (NIA)the normal aging process can lead to changes that can affect gender.

Sex organs change with age. In women, the vagina may become narrower, with less lubrication. Menopause can also affect sexual desire. In men, erection problems may become more frequent.

People may also find that physical changes, such as changes in weight or muscle, affect how they feel about their body.

Illness, disability, medication or surgery can also impact sexual desire and intimacy.

However, not all people experience these problems and treatments are available for those who do.

Some researchers have studied sexual satisfaction in older people and found positive results.

A Survey 2019 people aged 60 and over found sex to be important to most people, with more than 70% saying they were sexually attractive for their age.

Another one study 2019 found that older people reported no significant difference in intimacy. A third of adults aged 60 to 82 reported more sexual thoughts and sexual activity than the average young adult.

However, other factors can affect the sex life of older people.

The Health and Aging Foundation reports factors that can affect sex life as people age:

  • low libido affects around 50% of sexually active women between the ages of 75 and 85
  • about 4 in 10 older women report being unable to reach orgasm
  • erectile dysfunction is the most common sexual difficulty in men
  • over the age of 80, approximately 15-25% of men reported having had sexual activity

Some men may experience changes as they age. This section explains these changes in more detail.

Physical changes

erectile dysfunction becomes more common in men as they age. People may find it harder to get and keep an erection. People may also find that an erection becomes less firm than before.

If erectile dysfunction becomes a regular occurrence, a person should see a doctor.

A doctor can treat erectile dysfunction by prescribing drugs such as Viagra.

Learn more about male sexual health issues.

Hormonal changes

After the the age of 50some men may have a decrease in testosterone levels.

It can affect libido and the time it takes for people to become aroused and get an erection.

Erections may be less firm, may last less than before, and ejaculation may take longer.

Learn more about hormonal changes in men.

mental changes

People can experience their bodies differently as they age, and a negative self-image can cause them to lose interest in sex or avoid being intimate with a partner.

Some women may experience changes as they age. This section examines these changes in more detail.

Physical changes

At a later age, the vagina can become shorter and narrower, the vaginal wall becoming thinner and stiffer. There may also be less vaginal lubrication.

It can make vaginal intercourse painful or reduce a person’s desire to engage in certain sexual activities.

However, a person can use lubricants to combat this problem.

Hormonal changes

Menopause can affect a person’s sex life because menopause causes hormonal changes.

Some postmenopausal people may not notice any change in their sex life, while others can experience:

  • the vagina becomes thinner and drier, which can make sex uncomfortable
  • a decrease in libido
  • difficulty getting excited
  • disturbed sleep, which can cause people to feel more tired than usual
  • mood swings that can impact libido or sexual desire

A doctor can prescribe hormone replacement therapy to help relieve symptoms of menopause.

mental changes

A study 2019 found that in older women, factors for avoiding sex included:

  • relationship satisfaction
  • relational intimacy
  • physical and mental health

The researchers found that, in older women, relationship factors were as important as health-related factors in sexual avoidance.

Feeling uncomfortable about any bodily changes can impact intimacy and sex life.

People may find the following factors can help people maintain a satisfying sex life as they age.

Communicate with partners

It’s important to talk openly with one or more partners about any changes or issues people are going through that might affect their sex life.

Discussing any sexual problem with a partner can help people increase their intimacy and boost their sexual relationship.

Stay in shape sexually

Staying physically active and exercising regularly will promote heart health, build muscle, and support mental health. People may find that staying physically active helps them feel more interested in sex.

Masturbation can help people explore what they like and become familiar with any changes in their sexual responses.

It can help people find it easier to communicate what they like to a partner. Masturbation can also help improve well-being and improve body image and self-esteem.

Experiment

Changing routines can help reinvigorate intimacy and sex.

Experiencing new activities, positions, people, places, or fantasies can bring excitement to a person’s sex life.

People may want to try new positions using pillows or wedges or try activities that don’t involve penile or vaginal penetration.

People may also enjoy exploring role-playing games, group sex, or experimenting with genres other than those they’re used to.

However, those in perimenopause should still use effective contraception if they do not wish to become pregnant. Men without a vasectomy should also use contraception to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

Using barrier contraceptive methods, such as condoms or dental dams, can help prevent sexually transmitted infections.

Medications

If erectile dysfunction is affecting a person’s sex life, medications such as testosterone can help. It is important to discuss any potential side effects with a healthcare professional.

If intercourse is painful due to vaginal dryness, prescription hormones, such as vaginal estrogen, can help. People may also want to try over-the-counter water-based lubricants or moisturizers to help reduce dryness.

Hormone therapy can help menopausal symptoms and can help increase sex drive.

Tips

Talking to a counselor who specializes in age, gender and relationship issues can help people who are struggling.

If there are issues with intimacy or sex in a relationship, it may be due to mental or emotional factors. Seeing a therapist, individually or with a partner, can help resolve them.

A therapist can also discuss aging issues.

Learn more

Learn more about improving a person’s sex life.

Physical changes, medications or health conditions, hormonal changes, and mental or emotional factors can affect a person’s sex life as they age.

However, there are many steps people can take to enjoy a satisfying sex life as they age. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, staying active, and communicating clearly about how they feel about sex can help.

Medication or hormone therapy can also help with issues such as erectile dysfunction or menopausal symptoms.

If people face sex life issues as they age, they may want to talk to a healthcare professional or counselor.

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