Sex and Older Adults

Sexual activity is a natural and important part of a healthy lifestyle. While the interest in sex varies widely in people, most people experience sexual desire throughout life. Studies show that sex and sexual urges continue to be important to adults regardless of their age.

Many older couples say that they enjoy sex more now than when they were younger. They have more privacy, life has fewer stresses and for heterosexual couples, there are no longer fears of unwanted pregnancies. Regardless of your age, if you want to engage in sex you should and if you are not as interested anymore, that is fine, too.

The 55+ and loving it is available for print.

 Did you know?
  • Only 9% of sexually active older adults use a condom.
  • Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Infectious Syphilis are on the rise in older adults.
  • Free condoms are available at sexitsmart.ca
 As We Age

Sexual desire and our response to sexual stimulation often changes as we age. Some illnesses and medicines can affect your ability to have and enjoy sex. Understanding what causes these changes can help you to enhance or maintain your sex life. Normal changes as we age include:

  • Hormonal changes during menopause can cause females to have a decrease in lubrication that can result in vaginal discomfort, dryness and pain during intercourse.
  • It may take longer to become aroused.
  • You may not have as much energy or stamina.
  • It may be hard to reach the same level of satisfaction that you once enjoyed.

Remember that these changes are normal. If you or your partner are experiencing any of these changes, please speak to your health care provider to find out about treatment options.  

 Sex can be good at any age

There are benefits to maintaining a healthy, active sex life.

  • Sex burns fat and causes the brain to release endorphins, natural chemicals that act as painkillers and reduce anxiety.
  • In men, sex stimulates the release of growth hormones and testosterone, which strengthen bones and muscles.
  • Some studies suggest that sex about three times a week can slow aging and prevent wrinkles around the eyes.
  • The physical exertion associated with sex is about the same as walking up two flights of stairs. If your heart is up to that much exercise, your heart rate is probably up during sex.
 Exploring Both Sides

There are things each one of us can do to compensate for the normal changes that come with aging. With proper information and support, your later years can be an exciting time to explore both your emotional and sexual beings.

  • Knowledge and acceptance of your older identity is your best ally. Talk to your partner openly about your sexual expectations and changing abilities. Discover new ways to be physically intimate.
  • Even if sexual intercourse is not possible or you are no longer engaging in a sexual relationship, touching, hugging and handholding provide much needed human contact and emotional intimacy.
  • Eat healthy food and enjoy regular physical activity. Find healthy eating resources and join an exercise program for older adults.
  • If you are a woman who suffers from vaginal discomfort, ask your health care provider about the options available to you. Taking the time to become properly stimulated and trying new approaches with your partner can also help.
  • If you are a man who suffers from erectile dysfunction, talk to your health care provider about possible treatments. Remember that even with medications, you still need arousal time and a willing partner.
 No worries, right?

Although younger people continue to account for the highest rates of sexually transmitted and blood borne infections (STBBIs), data indicates that rates among older adults are also increasing. Many older adults do not see themselves as being at risk for STBBIs. No matter what your age, anyone can get an STBBI. You can protect yourself by taking these steps:

  • If you are in a new relationship, discuss past sexual histories with each other.
  • Always use a condom when engaging in sexual activity with a new or casual partner. You can order free condoms at sexitsmart.ca.
  • If you have engaged in unprotected sex with a new or casual partner, speak to your healthcare provider or visit Ottawa Public Health’s sexual health clinic for testing.

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