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When most people picture the “golden years,” they rarely think of fulfilling, active sex lives. In our society, ageist stereotypes inform us that older individuals should not want or need to be sexually active. Many television shows and movies depict the sexuality of older people as a punch line, such as that of Mrs. Roper’s highly charged libido on “Three's Company.” As a result of such stereotypes, many older people feel forced to just give up on their sexuality.
However, the truth is that there is no expiration date on sexuality. In fact, despite what the media and society tell us, sexuality can be a part of your adult life well into your 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond! As long as the body is able and the mind is willing, the golden years can truly be platinum when it comes to your sex life.
Of course, the passing of time does present some unique concerns and roadblocks in the bedroom. Our bodies change as we age, even when it comes to the bedroom. Here are some of the common concerns older people face regarding their sexuality, and easy tips for solving these woes:
Out-of-whack hormonesAs we age, our bodies' hormones change, which in turn affects everything from our sleeping and eating habits to our sexual response. When women reach menopause, decreased estrogen levels lead to decreased sexual response and decreased libido. As a result, they might experience less lubrication, less sensation, and have a harder time reaching orgasm. Some women find that even when they do reach orgasm, it is not as intense or prolonged as it was when they were younger.
Localized estrogen is a good way to combat these concerns, since it can be applied to the body directly, and therefore won't negatively interfere with the body's hormones. There are also many non-hormonal topical options. Zestra, for instance is a topical oil that creates tingling warming sensations and may help with arousal. Another possibility is L-arginine, which is not topical, but a supplement that some studies have shown increase blood flow to the genitals, thereby helping increase, lubrication and sensation.
Poor blood flowWomen are not the only ones who experience poor sexual response due to decreased blood flow. Many men experience erectile difficulties as they age, in which they have difficulty attaining or maintaining an erection. This is because circulation and blood flow to the genitals can decrease as part of the natural aging process. PDE5 inhibitors like Viagra, Sildenafil and Cialis can help improve genital blood flow and thus help with erectile concerns. Unfortunately, none of these are a magic cure all.
Some relationships are challenged by the introduction of sildenafil into the bedroom, because all of a sudden one half of the couple is ready and primed for sex quite often, while the other partner might feel left in the dust. In order to combat this issue, a man taking sildenafil should be aware of his partner's needs, and continue devoting time to foreplay and addressing his partner's desires.
Health and wellness
As we age, health concerns tend to become more common. From chronic illness to temporary health issues, couples might find their sex lives fall by the wayside when presented with more pressing concerns. Indeed, physical fitness and sexual fitness go hand-in-hand, so when your body is not in prime shape physically, you will most likely feel the effects of it in the bedroom. However, if couples devote themselves to physical fitness through regular exercise and healthy eating habits, sexual fitness need not be affected. Additionally, if couples make regular sex a part of their routine, they will find that their desire and sexual response will improve as a result. The more you have sex, the more you will enjoy it and the more sexually in tune you will be. And the best part? Regular sex is part of a healthy life, as it decreases stress and promotes physical fitness.
Your sexuality need not suffer as you age. Stay dedicated to your sex life and maintain your physical fitness, and you might find that sex only improves as you enjoy your golden years. Remember, there is no such thing as too old for great sex — sexuality is a natural, healthy part of being an adult, regardless of age!
Dr. Laura Berman is the director of the in Chicago, a specialized health care facility dedicated to helping women and couples find fulfilling sex lives and enriched relationships. She is also an assistant clinical professor of OB-GYN and psychiatry at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. She has been working as a sex educator, researcher and therapist for 18 years.