Sex in your senior years
The sexual role models that we conventionally see are 18-
to 30-year-old people. We seldom have a picture or vision of 60-, 70-, 80-, or
90-year-old people enjoying sex. Society in general and particularly the medical
community is guilty of assuming that when you retire from your job, you also
retire from your love life and your sexual life.
Young people often act as if they invented sex. However, according to a recent
anonymous questionnaire of men and women from ages 80 to 102, sexual activity
was so common that perhaps the role model for intimacy should be shifted from
One of the problems with sex is the false image conveyed by our "R"-rated movies
that seem to specialize in heavy breathing, thumping bed springs, and sensual,
sweating, moaning young bodies that turn intimacy into an athletic performance.
Actually, good meaningful sex is less performance-oriented. It can be done very
quietly without much hubbub. If sex enhances you as a person and enhances the
other person and enhances your togetherness, then it's a good thing. It really
doesn't make much difference whether or not you have had an orgasm, or if you
did it in 12 different positions, or even if you had an erection or whatever.
Sex is a close, intimate, loving relationship between a man and a woman who are
unafraid of doing the things that please each other.
WHAT ABOUT SEXUALITY IN LATER LIFE:
Most older people are able to lead an active, satisfying sex life. Older women
do not usually lose their physical capacity for orgasm, nor do older men lose
their capacity for erection and ejaculation. However, we can expect a gradual
slowing of response in the physical body. When problems occur, they are usually
the result of disease, disability, drug reaction, or emotional upset.
Those changes that do occur in women (shape, flexibility, and lubrication of the
vagina) can be traced directly to lowered levels of the hormone estrogen during
and after menopause.
Older men may take somewhat longer to attain an erection than when young. The
erection may not be quite as firm or as large as in earlier years. There can be
a shorter ejaculation sensation, the loss of erection following orgasm may be
more rapid, and a longer period of time passes before an erection is again
EFFECTS OF ILLNESS OR DISABILITY:
Even the most serious diseases rarely warrant stopping sexual activity. Here are
some that are used as an excuse:
HEART DISEASE, especially if a heart attack has occurred, leads many
older people to give up sex for fear of causing another attack. The risk is low;
in fact, an active sex life may decrease the risk of a future attack.
DIABETES is one of the few diseases that can cause impotence. Once
diabetes is diagnosed and controlled, however, potency in most cases may be
STROKE rarely damages physical aspects of sexual function, and it is
unlikely that sexual exertion will cause another stroke. Using different
positions or medical devices that assist body functions can help make up for any
weakness or paralysis that may have occurred.
ARTHRITIS can produce pain that limits sexual activity. Surgery and drugs
can relieve these problems, but in some cases the medicines used can decrease
sexual desire. Exercise, rest, warm baths, and changes in position and timing of
sexual activity (such as avoiding evening and early-morning hours of pain) can
HYSTERECTOMY, if performed correctly, does not harm sexual functioning.
Those women who believe that they have been damaged by a hysterectomy, or men
who consider their partners "less feminine" after this surgery, should seek
counseling. The same is true of mastectomy.
PROSTATECTOMY rarely affects potency. Except for a lack of seminal fluid,
sexual capacity and enjoyment after a prostatectomy should return to the
ALCOHOL reduces potency in men and delays orgasm in women. It is the most
widespread drug-related cause of sexual problems. Tranquilizers,
antidepressants, and certain high blood pressure drugs can cause impotence;
other drugs can lead to failure to ejaculate in men and reduced sexual desire in
EMOTIONAL problems. Remember, all men are impotent at times due to
tiredness, tension, illness, or alcohol. Usually, potency returns by itself, but
if a man is too worried he may continue to be impotent due to his fear alone.