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Detailed info on sexual problems facing older adults, seniors, and how to maintain sexual health, intimacy and sexuality in mid-life.

Today's older adults are active, on the go and still doing many of the things they enjoyed in their younger years. That includes enjoying sex and intimate relationships.

Like adults of all ages, you probably want to continue sharing your life in a fulfilling relationship. A healthy sexual relationship can positively affect all aspects of your life, including your physical health and self-esteem.

Though movies and television might tell you that sex is only for younger adults, that isn't true. The need for intimacy is ageless. You'll never outgrow your need for affection, emotional closeness and intimate love. Most people still have sexual fantasies and desires well into their 80s and 90s.

It's true that sex won't be the same as it was in your 20s, but that doesn't mean it can't be as fulfilling or as enjoyable. Understanding the changes your body r your partner's body is going through can help you prepare for some of the challenges you'll face.

Natural changes as you age

As you know, your body changes as you age, and these changes can affect your sexual relationships. Although your body's physical changes are the most often discussed, psychological issues factor in, too.

Physical changes

Testosterone regulates your sex drive whether you're a man or a woman. And most aging men and women produce enough testosterone to maintain their interest in sex. Although your body will go through changes that may make some aspects of sex more difficult as you age, these changes give you reason to try new positions and techniques.


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Men and women experience different changes in their bodies as they age:

  • Women. Most physical changes in your body are linked to menopause and reduced estrogen levels. As you age, it takes longer for your vagina to swell and lubricate when you're sexually aroused. Your vagina also loses elasticity. Together these can make intercourse less comfortable or even painful. You might also feel a burning sensation during intercourse or discover vaginal bleeding afterward.

  • Longer foreplay sometimes helps stimulate your natural lubrication. You can try a water-based lubricant, such as K-Y jelly, or talk to your doctor about estrogen cream or estrogen replacement therapy. Having intercourse regularly helps maintain lubrication and elasticity. If you haven't had intercourse for a while, it will take time to stretch out your vagina so that it can accommodate a penis. Talk to your partner about taking it slowly to minimize your pain.

  • Men. As you age, it might take you longer to achieve an erection. Your erections may be less firm and may not last as long. Aging also increases the time between possible ejaculations. Trying different positions may make inserting your penis easier for you and your partner.

  • Talk to you doctor if you're having problems maintaining an erection or reaching orgasm. He or she can help you adapt to these changes. Your doctor can discuss medications that can help you achieve and maintain an erection. In some cases, your doctor might suggest other ways, such as penile vacuum pumps or vascular surgery.

Psychological changes

Maintaining your ability to have sex as you age depends on your mind as much as your body. If you're embarrassed or ashamed of your sexual needs as an older adult, your anxiety can affect your ability to become aroused.

Changes in your appearance might also affect your emotional ability to connect. As you notice more wrinkles and gray hairs, you might feel less attractive. A poor body image reduces your sex drive because you don't feel worthy of sexual attention from your partner.

The stress of worrying too much about how you will perform can trigger impotence in men or a lack of sexual arousal in women. Taking things slowly can help you avoid this pressure.

Talk to you partner about your anxiety. He or she can offer reassurance.

Changes due to medications and surgery

Some medical problems can interfere with how you respond sexually to another person. Chronic pain or surgery and illness that cause fatigue can make sexual activities more challenging or painful.

Some commonly used medications can interfere with sexual function. Drugs that control high blood pressure can reduce desire and impair erection in men and lubrication in women. Antihistamines, antidepressants and acid-blocking drugs can have side effects that affect sexual function.

Talk with your doctor about how your medications and conditions will affect your sexual abilities and how you can minimize those effects.