Sex and Aging
Changes in sexual desire and behavior throughout the life cycle are normal. This is especially true as you enter your later years. Once it was thought that older people didn’t have sex, but we now acknowledge that people are—and encourage them to remain—sexually active (if they choose) throughout their lives.
Intimacy and connection are just as important later in life as they are earlier. Although scientific research on the frequency and types of sexual activity among older people is lacking, there has been some progress recently. For example, we now know that the most important predictor of sexual interest and activity in a person’s later years is frequency of sexual activity earlier in life: If sex is central to a person’s happiness at age 30, it will probably still be at age 60.
When sexual activity decreases or ceases for men, the most common causes are lack of desire (usually resulting from medications), ill health, and erectile difficulties. Women most often report they stop having intercourse due to a lack of desire (usually resulting from medications), loss of a partner, hormonal changes linked to menopause, or a partner’s wishes.
Although studies show interest in sexual activity continues, research consistently shows a decrease in penis-vagina intercourse as people age. In addition, some illnesses and disabilities require that couples try different positions for intercourse, which may be off-putting to some. Finally, research tells us that over the years “attachment” to a partner becomes more important than “attraction,” and satisfaction is measured more in terms of affection, security, and commitment than sexual fulfillment.
Men who have frequent penile stimulation have an easier time getting and maintaining erections. Women who have frequent genital and clitoral stimulation have better self-lubrication. You should view self-pleasuring (masturbation) as a natural supplementary activity within a relationship.
A good sex life at any age involves considerably more than just sex. It’s also about intimacy and touch. Obviously, these are activities anyone can benefit from. Even if you are ill or have physical disabilities, you can engage in intimate acts and benefit from closeness with another person. Take the pressure off by putting aside your old ideas of sex being focused on penetration and orgasm. As humans age and become less focused on their genitals, they are more likely to discover the sensuousness of their entire bodies.
Outercourse is a term used for the great variety of erotic experiences that do not include intercourse or penetrative sex. Outercourse validates pleasure and connectedness as ends in themselves without focusing on the singular goal of intercourse. Take your time, relax, and enjoy the experience of sensual touching.
As bodies and feelings change as you get older, it becomes more important than ever to communicate your thoughts, fears, and desires to your partner. People tend to assume their partners know what they like in the bedroom. Often, people give no feedback on their experience in order to please a partner. So partners think whatever they are doing is right and keep doing it. Use humor, be honest, and be open to new ideas to improve sexual communication.