Do you remember when the Dow Jones bottomed out at 67 or you paid 14 cents for a loaf of bread? Are you more familiar with the Original Amateur Hour than “American Idol?” If so, this blog is for you.
A 70-year-old man who recently became single responded to one of my previous blog posts. He asked whether he still could expect to have a sexually fulfilling relationship. His question is a reminder about the importance of sexually-satisfying later years.
In 2003, AARP’s Modern Maturity Sexuality Survey found while the frequency of sexual activity decreases with age, more than 50 percent of older men and women with regular partners have sexual intercourse weekly; more than 70 percent have it at least once or twice a month.
However, this study also found that older adults with sexual concerns have a difficult time expressing their worries and being taken seriously.
The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found the most common reasons for sexual inactivity in later years are decreased interest, partner health and lack of a partner.
Decreased interest in sex is the most common concern our patients experience, regardless of age. This could be due to health concerns, medications, relationship distress, frustrations towards your partner, body image, negative messages about sex, etc.
Partner’s health is another significant reason why people are fearful of exploring and enjoying continued sex and intimacy. When health concerns take priority in life, I recommend maintaining communication and closeness with your partner to avoid establishing sexual problems.
Avoid certain behaviors and positions that could lead to discomfort. Remember that you can still enjoy intimacy even when intercourse isn’t possible due to health reasons and certain treatments.
Age doesn’t create sexual problems rather the ailments that increase with age are likely culprits. This could include high blood pressure, arthritis, pain, cancer, etc. In addition to the symptoms, many medications can lead to sexual problems like low desire, lack of lubrication, erectile dysfunction, and diminished orgasms.
Lastly, lack of a partner can pose sexual issues and increase overall loneliness. Remember your sexuality isn’t always dependent upon having a partner. You are still a sexual human being capable of flirting and dating. Women, try wearing perfume with a Rita Hayworth sweater. Men, dab on some cologne and sexy suspenders.
So often, information about sex and aging is laced with stereotypes. The following are myths suggested by Peggy Brick, an 81-year-old retired sex educator.
Myth #1: Sex is for the young and the beautiful.
Truth #1: Yes, but it’s also for the old and dermatologically-contoured (wrinkled).
Myth #2: We shouldn’t talk about sex.
Truth #2: We’d better learn to talk! Lack of honest communication may be the major problem for sexually unsatisfied couples and new sprouting relationships.
Myth #3: Sex is a “natural” act.
Truth #3: No, it’s not. Everyone learned how to be sexual, and more learning is necessary to accommodate an aging body, changing relationships and an evolving life.
Myth #4: Old bodies are ugly and not sexy.
Truth #4: Maybe, when you compare older bodies to the contrived media images that use sex to sell products. But all bodies — even older ones — have feeling and sensation, need touch and crave intimacy.
Myth #5: Sex equals vaginal intercourse, nothing else “counts.”
Truth #5: Sexuality is much more than intercourse. There are many other ways to achieve pleasure, such as “outercourse.” or non-penetrative sex.
Myth #6: Masturbation is bad.
Truth #6: Although you may choose to follow religious or social admonitions against self-pleasuring, understand that it is a healthy expression of sexuality. Masturbation may be especially important for those who are likely to live for years without a partner.
Myth #7: Men should be the initiators of sexual contact.
Truth #7: Older men who fear erectile failure may no longer initiate sexual contact; an assertive partner may save the relationship.
Growing older is a process, not a disease. Sexual problems can be treated and myths can be debunked. Enjoy your sexuality throughout your life!