Old age should not be a hindrance to an active and satisfying sex life. Get the answers for commonly asked questions on sex and aging.
Sex is good for both young and old couples because of the health benefits related to it. As we grow old many of us still want to have an active life, including the desire to have a satisfying sex life.
Here are some commonly asked questions regarding aging and sex:
As women get closer to menopause they may not have their period for many months and think they can no longer get pregnant. However, until you have missed 12 months in a row, you may still be ovulating and you may still get pregnant. Therefore birth control is still needed. A more important problem, however, can be sexually transmitted diseases.
Although young people are most at risk for these diseases (including syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydial infection, genital herpes, hepatitis B, genital warts, and trichomoniasis), older sexually-active people can still get them as well. Anyone who is sexually active is also at risk for being infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Many people do not realize that the number of older people with HIV/AIDS is growing. One out of every 10 people diagnosed with AIDS in the United States is over age 50. You are at risk if you have more than one sexual partner or you have started dating and having unprotected sex again. Always use a latex condom during sex, and talk to your doctor about ways to protect yourself from all sexually transmitted diseases.
For many seniors, institutional living marks the end of sexual freedom: no locks on doors, shared rooms, single beds, segregation of male and female residents, no provision for couples to room together. Combined with insufficient knowledge about aging and sexuality, and negative attitudes on the part of staff and family, seniors may find themselves in a sexual desert.
Expressions of sexuality and intimacy are often treated as behavior problems, if not actively discouraged. For some seniors, negative attitudes toward sexuality in general are compounded by homophobia: whether living in the community or in a retirement residence or institution, gay men and lesbians can face significant barriers to healthy expression of their sexuality. If you find yourself or a friend or relative in this situation, it is important not to ignore the importance of sensual, and if possible sexual expression. Love, caring, and touching should be acceptable in any setting. Some institutions even allow for privacy among consenting adults for “intimate relations.” However, the opportunity for sexual expression in these settings is often very limited, and much more education of staff and family members is often needed for institutionalized older adults to have appropriate expressions of their sexuality.
Sexuality is often a delicate balance of emotional and physical issues. How you feel may affect what you are able to do. For example, men may fear that once they have had a sexual “failure” they are less manly, and become overly concerned about their sexual prowess. This worry can actually cause enough stress to trigger further erectile dysfunction. A woman who is worried about how her looks are changing as she ages may think her partner will no longer find her attractive. This focus on youthful physical beauty may get in the way of her enjoyment of sex. Older couples also face the same daily stresses that affect people of any age. But they may also have the added concerns of illness, retirement and other lifestyle changes. These worries can be cause depression and anxiety and affect sexual functioning as well.
Emotional health is important to having a healthy and fulfilling sex life. It is important to address emotional issues as they surface. Open communication with your partner is vital, but if you are sensitive about the subject matter, a therapist specializing in sexual issues might also be helpful. Talking about your concerns and actively addressing them is the only way to overcome them. You may find that expressing your worries and anxieties can help you see them in perspective or reveal ways that you can work to correct them.
Recognizing that most couples have difficulty with their sexuality sometime during their relationship and not taking it personally can be a very helpful first step. Next, it is essential that you and your partner develop ways to talk about the problem. First, choose a time when you are both able to give full attention to the conversation, and aren’t feeling particularly stressed. Focus on the positive, (your love for your partner and your desire to work things out together). Objectively describe your feelings and perceptions of the problem without being judgmental. Ask open-ended questions, such as “What can I do to make things better for you?” or “What are your concerns about talking with your doctor?”
Take time to create a romantic atmosphere and add more playfulness, laughter, and foreplay to your lovemaking. Explore other options, such as sex toys, oral sex, mutual masturbation etc. that do not require an erect penis to obtain sexual satisfaction. This is also a great time to explore doing more sensual things together, such as giving each other a gentle, loving massage, taking dance classes, or exploring Tantra yoga together. And finally, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to get professional help when it is needed. Life is too short to deprive yourself of one of life’s greatest pleasures.
Sexuality and sensuality are an important part of the aging process. Read Lifelong Sexuality to get more information.
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