Overview, stats, and maintaining satisfaction

Aging can cause changes that may affect a person’s sex life. Health conditions and changing hormone levels can impact a person’s sex life, but people can take steps to maintain sexual satisfaction as they age.

Age does not have to limit a person sexually. Older people may actually experience a sense of liberation they did not in their youth, as the responsibilities and the risks of unwanted pregnancy are lower.

This article looks at sex and aging, the changes to expect, and how people can lead a fulfilling sex life as they get older.

According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA)the normal aging process can bring about changes that may affect sex.

The sexual organs change with age. In females, the vagina may become narrower, with less lubrication. Menopause may also affect sexual desire. In males, erectile problems may become more common.

People may also find that physical changes, such as weight or muscle changes, affect how they feel in their bodies.

Illness, disability, medications, or surgery can also impact sexual desire and intimacy.

However, not all people experience these problems, and treatments are available for those who do.

Some researchers have studied sexual satisfaction in older adults and found positive results.

A 2019 survey of people 60 years and older found that sex was important to most people, with over 70% reporting being sexually attractive for their age.

Another 2019 study found that older adults reported no significant difference in intimacy. A third of older adults 60–82 years reported more sexual thoughts and sexual activity than the average younger adult.

However, other factors can affect the sex lives of older adults.

The Health in Aging Foundation reports factors that may affect sex life as people age:

  • low sex drive affects around 50% of sexually active females aged 75-85 years
  • around 4 in 10 older females report being unable to climax
  • erectile dysfunction is the most common sexual difficulty in males
  • above the age of 80, around 15-25% of males reported engaging in sexual activity

Some males may experience changes as they age. This section explains these changes in more detail.

physical changes

Erectile dysfunction becomes more common in males as they age. People may find it harder to get and maintain an erection. People may also find an erection becomes less firm than it has been previously.

If erectile dysfunction becomes a regular occurrence, a person should consult a doctor.

A doctor can treat erectile dysfunction by prescribing medications such as Viagra.

Learn more about sexual health problems in males.

Hormonal changes

After the age of 50, some males may have a decrease in testosterone levels.

This may affect sex drive and the time it takes for people to become aroused and get an erection.

Erections may be less firm, may last for a shorter time than before, and it may take longer to ejaculate.

Learn more about hormonal changes in males.

mental changes

People may feel differently about their bodies as they age, and a negative self-image may make them lose interest in sex or avoid being intimate with a partner.

Some females may experience changes as they age. This section looks at these changes in more detail.

physical changes

In older age, the vagina can become shorter and narrower, with the vaginal wall becoming thinner and stiffer. There may also be less vaginal lubrication.

This may make vaginal penetration painful or reduce a person’s desire to engage in certain sexual activities.

However, a person can use lubricants to help combat this issue.

Hormonal changes

Experiencing menopause can affect a person’s sex life, as menopause causes hormone changes.

Some menopausal people may not notice any changes in their sex life, while others may experience,

  • the vagina becoming thinner and drier, which may make sex feel uncomfortable
  • a lower sex drive
  • difficulty becoming aroused
  • disturbed sleep, which can cause people to feel more tired than usual
  • mood swings that may impact sexual drive or desire

A doctor can prescribe hormone replacement therapy to help relieve the symptoms of menopause.

mental changes

A 2019 study found that in older females, factors for avoiding sex included:

  • relationship satisfaction
  • relationship intimacy
  • physical and mental health

Researchers found that, in older females, relationship factors had the same importance as health-related factors in sex avoidance.

Feeling uncomfortable about any bodily changes may impact intimacy and sex life.

People may find the following factors may help people to maintain a satisfying sex life as they age.

Communicating with partners

It is important to talk openly with a partner or partners about any changes or issues people are experiencing that may be affecting their sex life.

Discussing any sexual issues with a partner may help people increase intimacy and boost their sexual relationship.

Keeping sexually fit

Staying physically active and maintaining regular exercise will support heart health, strengthen muscles, and help mental health. People may find staying physically active helps them feel more interested in sex.

Masturbation may help people explore what they enjoy and become familiar with any changes in their sexual responses.

This may help people find it easier to communicate what they like to a partner. Masturbation may also help to boost well-being and improve body image and self-esteem.

Experimenting

Changing routines may help reinvigorate intimacy and sex.

Experimenting with new activities, positions, people, places, or fantasies may bring excitement to a person’s sex life.

People may want to try new positions using pillows or wedges or try activities not involving the penis or vaginal penetration.

People may also like to explore role play, group sex, or try experiences with other genders than those they are used to.

However, those who are perimenopausal still need to use effective birth control if they do not wish to become pregnant. Males without a vasectomy also need to use contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Using barrier methods of contraception, such as condoms or dental dams, can help to prevent sexually transmitted infections.

Medications

If erectile dysfunction is affecting a person’s sex life, medications may help, such as testosterone. It is important to discuss any potential side effects with a healthcare professional.

If sex is painful due to vaginal dryness, prescription hormones, such as vaginal estrogen, may help. People may also want to try over-the-counter water-based lubricants or moisturizers to help reduce dryness.

Hormone therapy may help symptoms of menopause and may help to increase sexual drive.

Counseling

Talking with a counselor specializing in age, sex, and relationship issues may help people experiencing difficulties.

If there are problems with intimacy or sex in a relationship, it may be due to mental or emotional factors. Seeing a therapist, either individually or with a partner, may help to resolve these.

A therapist can also discuss aging concerns.

Learn more

Learn more about improving a person’s sex life.

Physical changes, medications or health conditions, hormone changes, and mental or emotional factors can affect a person’s sex life as they age.

However, there are many steps people can take to enjoy a satisfying sex life as they age. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, keeping active, and communicating clearly about how they feel about sex may help.

Medications or hormone therapy may also help with issues such as erectile dysfunction or menopause symptoms.

If people face issues with their sex life as they age, they may want to talk with a healthcare professional or counselor.

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