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How Aging Affects Sexuality

How Aging Affects Sexuality

As you get older, physical changes might affect your sexual performance. Fortunately, there's a lot you can do to maintain a satisfying love life.

One study found that up to 30% of seniors remain sexually active well into their eighties. Another found that more than 60% of older women are satisfied with their sex life, even without intercourse. Many women feel that sex is more satisfying after menopause because they don’t have to worry about pregnancy anymore.

There are no hard-and-fast rules about elder sexuality. You and your partner should explore together to find what works best for you both.

Sexual Problems of Aging

As men and women get older, sexual intercourse may become a challenge because of changing hormone levels. Loss of estrogen in women causes vaginal dryness. Loss of testosterone in men causes weaker erections. Both men and women may have less sexual desire as they age.

Other health conditions can also lead to sexual problems as we get older. For instance:

Arthritis can make sex uncomfortable.

Diabetes can lead to erectile dysfunction (ED) in men.

Heart and vascular disease can make it harder to have orgasms, for both men and women.

Loss of bladder control in women can make sex embarrassing.

Some medications can cause sexual problems for men and women.

Mastectomy for breast cancer can make women feel less attractive.

Prostatectomy for prostate cancer can cause sexual problems for men.

Improving Sexuality After 50

If a health condition is impeding your sex life, it’s time to talk with your doctor. Many physical challenges can be managed. Don’t ignore psychological problems, either. Stress, fear and anxiety can also be barriers to sexuality. Talking about sex with a therapist can help.

Other options include:

Testosterone replacement therapy. As men age, the chance of having low testosterone increases. Studies have shown that testosterone therapy can increase sex drive. But there could be side effects, so consult with your doctor on these treatments.

Erectile dysfunction drugs. These are an option for many older men. If you have ED because of a medical condition, the success rate of ED medicine is about 50 to 60%.

Estrogen replacement therapy. These drugs may improve sex drive for women after menopause. However, the treatment has been linked to a higher risk of stroke, heart attack, and breast cancer. The Food and Drug Administration recommends women take estrogen only at low doses and for a short period of time. Carefully weigh the pros and cons of estrogen replacement with your healthcare provider.

Lubricants. For vaginal dryness, try a water-soluble lubricant. Ask your doctor if a vaginal estrogen cream would be a safe option for treating painful intercourse, dryness or itching.

Many older men and women discover their own techniques for a happy, healthy sex life in advanced age. They might find that they have more energy for sex in the morning. Some may learn to relax and have less performance anxiety. Others may take more time to enjoy kissing and hugging, recognizing that sexuality is about more than intercourse. Just knowing that you don’t have to give up your sexuality or your sensuality is a great first step.

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