Mayo Clinic staff
How can you maintain a satisfying sex life as you age?
When confronted with the physical and emotional changes of aging, you may feel as ill-prepared and awkward about sex as you did during your first sexual experiences. To maintain a satisfying sex life, talk with your partner. Set aside time to be sensual and sexual together. When you're spending intimate time with your partner, share your thoughts about lovemaking. Tell your partner what you want from him or her. Be honest about what you're experiencing physically and emotionally.
Many couples want to know how to get back to the sexual arousal and activity levels they experienced in their 20s, 30s and early 40s. Instead, find ways to optimize your body's response for sexual experiences now. Ask yourselves what's satisfying and mutually acceptable.
How does aging affect men's sexual health?
Testosterone plays a critical role in a man's sexual experience. Testosterone levels peak in the late teens and then gradually decline. Most men notice a difference in their sexual response by age 60 to 65. The penis may take longer to become erect, and erections may not be as firm. It may take longer to achieve full arousal and to have orgasmic and ejaculatory experiences. Erectile dysfunction also becomes more common. Drugs such as sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra) and tadalafil (Cialis) can help men achieve or sustain an adequate erection for sexual activity.
How does aging impact women's sexual health?
As a woman approaches menopause, estrogen production decreases. As a result, most women have less natural vaginal lubrication, which can affect sexual pleasure. Women may experience emotional changes as well. While some women may enjoy sex more without worrying about pregnancy, naturally occurring changes in body shape and size may cause others to feel less sexually desirable.
What medical conditions can cause sexual health concerns?
Any condition that affects general health and well-being also affects sexual function. Illnesses that involve the cardiovascular system, high blood pressure, diabetes, hormonal problems, depression or anxiety — and the medications used to treat these conditions — can pose potential sexual health concerns.
High blood pressure, for instance, can affect your ability to become aroused, as can certain medications used to treat high blood pressure.
What can you do if medications negatively affect your sexual health?
Certain medications can inhibit your sexual response, including your desire for sex, your ability to become aroused and your orgasmic function. If you're experiencing sexual side effects from a medication, consult your doctor. It may be possible to switch to a different medication with fewer sexual side effects.
Don't let embarrassment keep you from asking your doctor for help — and don't stop taking prescribed medication before discussing it with your doctor. If you take several medications, each of which can have a different effect on your sexual function, try varying the type of sexual activity you engage in and how you approach it.
Dana Delany, who turned 54 last week, says marriage is not a priority at this point, but she definitely enjoys sex, she says in the new issue of More magazine.
"Here's the difference after 50: Your hormones change," the Desperate Housewives star explains. " So much of our lives is driven by hormones – sexual, procreative hormones. Believe me, I'm still very sexual, but I'm sexual in a much more energetic, spiritual sense, which is deeper and more fun."
"I had times with people where it was ego-driven or where you just wanted to have an orgasm. It was like, 'Let's get to the endgame'" But now, she says, "Great sex means it can go on for hours – and I'm not talking like Sting. Poor Sting has been so misquoted. But, you know, you take a break. You eat something. You talk, you laugh, you hang out. It's ongoing and it's sexy, and your whole life can be like that. Of course, you end up having a lot of orgasms, which is a bonus.'"
Reader’s Digest Online
Judging from the images the popular media puts forth, you'd think sex was only for twenty somethings. Nothing is further from the truth. Sex at midlife and beyond is a subject mired in confusion and misinformation. Here are some common myths, and the straight story about sex after 50.
Fiction: Beyond a certain age, people have little interest in sex.
Fact: There is no age limit on sexuality, but for people age 50 and over, sexual satisfaction depends more on the overall quality of the relationship than it does for younger couples. A National Council on Aging survey reports that among people age 60 and over who have regular intercourse, 74 percent of the men and 70 percent of the women find their sex lives more satisfying than when they were in their forties.
Fiction: As a man ages, he loses his ability to get an erection.
Fact: Aging itself is not a cause of erectile dysfunction. However, diminishing hormone levels do precipitate some changes. A man may need more physical stimulation to become aroused, and his erection may not be quite as firm as when he was younger -- but sex is no less pleasurable. While a 25-year-old man might be able to get a second erection as quickly as fifteen minutes after an ejaculation, a 50-year-old man might need several hours.
Fiction: Emotional and psychological factors are responsible for a woman's lack of interest in sex at midlife and beyond.
Fact: Physical factors can play an even larger role. Hormonal changes at menopause can affect a woman's sexual response. Low estrogen levels can result in vaginal dryness, causing discomfort during sex. And in some women, lower testosterone levels can mean a lack of energy and a weaker sex drive. Other women find their interest in sex increases after menopause, due, in part, to a shift in the ratio of testosterone to estrogen and progesterone.
Fiction: A woman loses her ability to have orgasms as she ages.
Fact: Many women find increased sexual pleasure after menopause, including more frequent or more intense orgasms.
Fiction: Masturbation diminishes your ability to enjoy sex with a partner.
Fact: Masturbation can increase sexual pleasure, both with and without a partner. For women, it helps keep vaginal tissues moist and elastic and boosts hormone levels, which fuels sex drive. For men, it helps maintain erectile response.
Fiction: A man's inability to get an erection is most likely the result of an emotional problem.
Fact: Actually, physical causes -- such as circulation problems, prostate disorders, and side effects associated with prescription medications -- account for 85 percent of erectile difficulties.
Fiction: Couples at midlife and beyond who don't have regular sex have lost interest in sex or in each other.
Fact: When older couples don't have regular sex, it's usually because one partner has an illness or disability.
Of course, it's true that sex isn't going to stay exactly the same as you age. But the changes that take place aren't all negative. Once a woman is past menopause and no longer concerned about pregnancy, many couples find it easier to relax and look forward to lovemaking. And partners who are retired or working only part time often have more time and energy for each other, for making love as well as pursuing other shared activities.
By midlife, you know your own body and your partner's intimately, and, hopefully, you've figured out how to communicate what you find pleasurable. It's likely that you've shed any sexual inhibitions, and your sexual confidence and experience probably result in better sex for both of you. Just as important, sex may be more emotionally fulfilling because now it is driven less by hormones and more by the desire to share yourself with someone who loves you. Sex after age 65 may take place less often, but many find it becomes more gratifying than ever.
Now for my bit – I feel qualified to speak as a layman expert since I am 59-years old and I am having great sex really often (see the redhead smiling).
I do think it is important for those of us of a certain age to be aware of health issues, the normal wear and tear, and changes that a body goes through from aging BUT, and it’s a big one, the ‘norm’ does not have to determine our individual sexual activity. Let’s hear it for a good gene pool.
Personally all my sexual organs are in good working order, but – because of some anatomical weirdness having frequent and vigorous sex (once I got started again!) causes me to have frequent bladder infections unless I stay on a daily low dose, bladder specific antibiotic. I take the meds and I have no trouble, but boyo – if I skip a day, ouch! I say this to demonstrate that we all most likely have some adjustments we have to make and pay attention to in order to have a better than satisfactory sex life at this stage of life.
Exercise, and Kali knows I hate this truth, is the one most important activity we can participate in daily that will not only improve our health, and slow aging, but will increase our ability to have great sex and to enjoy it. Granted if you’re doing it right, sex is a great cardiovascular exercise but if you are not in shape you are less able to continue longer, and less able to participate in more strenuous positions.
I think exercise also makes us feel more attractive and much of good sex is a head game so…
If for any reason one partner or the other is having trouble performing, or enjoying making love – I would certainly say see your doctor first. There seems to be no shortage on the market for aids for erectile dysfunction, and/or vaginal dryness.
I do not as yet, logic says that at some time down the road I will, have a problem with vaginal dryness. I’ve already researched and found two good products – Replens and K-Y LiquiBeads. I like them both because they can be inserted (like a vaginal suppository) for 24 hours to a couple of days before you have intercourse and are still effective – that leaves the spontaneous factor in play. I keep a supply in my drawer for just in case, same as I do with band-aids in case of a blister from running. It’s not only Boy Scouts that need to be prepared.
The one factor that is easier at this age, and makes sex more intense is the ability to talk about it – both the joys and the problems. It is very important to let your partner know when something is working, as well as when it is not. Some matters are best discussed while not engaged in the act, others are more clearly demonstrated while in the moment. But I can guarantee you that if you have an ongoing dialogue about your sex life it will be improved.
Humor, I find necessary for a happy life and essential for a great sex life. I told my child when she was at the stage to hear such things, to never have sex twice with a man who did not laugh in bed. If you can’t have a sense of humor about sex, what can you find funny? I mean really, no matter how physically attractive the participants, the positions one finds oneself in are fairly comical. I myself have had the episode of the flying condom – let your imaginations run free.
And fantasy can play a big part of an active and enjoyable lovemaking partnership, as well as sex toys. Mink glove anyone? The pirate and the captured maiden? And some fantasies work simply by talking about the possibility of the scenario. You don’t actually have to have those gorgeous twins over to participate in your love making in order to have the idea add some titillation and spice to your afternoon eh?
I’m also a big believer in using all the furniture possible. There is a lot of good use you can make of a couch, an over stuffed chair, or an ottoman. When we were young it was all about how fast you could get your clothes off and get to it – now it’s much more about taking your time and getting maximum enjoyment from the act.
I have read the two biggest reasons people get divorced are sex and money – and the reason for that is that they don’t TALK ABOUT THEM. If I do nothing else I hope this blog will shed some light for someone on the fact that sex is fun, loving, respectable, and something that not only can, but should be talked about – a great deal.