Sex After 65: The Good News and The Bad News

sexy seniors

Despite popular misconceptions, your senior years don’t have to be sexless. In fact, a recent National Poll on Healthy Aging showed that 40 percent of males and females 65 to 80 years old continue to be sexually active. Sure, there may be some decline in drive and frequency compared to your younger, more energetic days, but it’s good to know that a healthy sex life can remain an integral and satisfying part of your relationship(s) throughout your golden years.

Here is some more positive news revealed from the poll.

  • Among those in the 65 to 80 age group who were in romantic relationships, the rate rose to 54 percent reporting that they were still sexually active.
  • Nearly three in four older adults (73 percent) indicated that they were satisfied with their sex life.
  • The vast majority of those who were sexually active (92 percent) said that sex is an important part of their romantic relationship.
  • Most older adults (76 percent) agreed that sex is an important part of a romantic relationship at any age. Not surprisingly, men were more likely to agree (84 percent) than women (69 percent).
  • Despite this gap, more women than men reported that they were extremely sexually satisfied (43 percent vs. 31 percent).

These are all encouraging findings, but it stands to reason that sex can have some challenges the older we get. Relationship dynamics certainly change over time, as do the health and bodies of partners. Changes in responsibilities and lifestyle such as caregiving duties and retirement can also contribute to fluctuations in interest and frequency of sexual activity.

On the down side, the poll found that older adults who experienced sexual concerns were reluctant to discuss them with their health care providers. In fact, only 17 percent of people reported speaking with their doctor about their sexual health. Perhaps even more of an issue, the doctors rarely ask their older patients about their sex lives. A more proactive and open dialog must be encouraged between doctor and patient about this topic, as it is a vital component to one’s overall health and quality of life.

From the normal aging process to certain medical conditions to a gap in partners, there are many life changes that can affect the sex lives of seniors.

Getting older can lead to alterations in sexual organs for both men and women, and so intimacy may need to be redefined to remain fulfilling. As women age, their vagina can shorten and become narrow, vaginal walls can become thinner and taut, and they tend to have less natural lubrication. As men age, impotence becomes more common. Also known as erectile dysfunction, or ED, this is one concern that men do tend to bring up with their doctors.

Chronic health conditions become more prevalent with age, and many of them can contribute to sexual problems. These conditions include:

  • Arthritis: Swollen joints can make certain sexual positions uncomfortable.
  • Stress incontinence: Some women are concerned they may pass urine with orgasm.
  • Cancers: A serious diagnosis like cancer can reduce sexual interest, and certain types like breast cancer and prostate cancer can affect body image too.
  • Neurological conditions: Things like Parkinson’s disease, strokes, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease can certainly affect one’s sex life.
  • Heart disease: Some partners are concerned that sexual activity may trigger a heart attack.
  • Diabetes: Men with diabetes often have reduced testosterone levels, which can affect their sex drive and contribute to erectile dysfunction.
  • Obesity: Body image issues tend to affect women more than men.
  • Chronic pain: It’s no wonder that pain and discomfort can be a turn off.
  • Medications: Some antidepressants, blood pressure drugs and more can lead to erectile dysfunction in men or orgasm difficulty for women.
  • Substance abuse: Sadly a growing concern among seniors, and something that can adversely affect one’s sex drive.

The takeaway is that many of these conditions can be managed and treated effectively. You need to get comfortable talking with your health care provider about any sexual changes or performance concerns as you age. With open communication, many of these issues can be addressed so you can progress through the years maintaining a hearty, age-appropriate sex life.

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