Sex and Ageing. How to Keep the Fun Going.

Sex and mature couples, sex and ageing,One of society’s most enduring taboos is around sex and physical intimacy as we age.  It’s something that even medical professionals are shy of talking about unless a patient directly asks directly.

Sexual desire often doesn’t decrease with age either for single people or long-time marrieds.  Equally, there are many men and women who are new to the dating scene in their 60s and beyond and want to be intimate with a new partner.  But there are plenty of people whose backgrounds and ages mean that talking about sex doesn’t come easily, so the internet can be a huge help here.

There are a few problems that can creep into play and spoil the fun of sex as we get older, and in this article we’re going to look at them and what can be done to help.

We’ve divided the article into the leading problems for men and for women – it’s worth reading the problems the opposite sex might be experiencing so that you can understand and work together to solve them.

Sex and the older woman – Vaginal dryness.

Vaginal dryness is one of the most common causes of sexual difficulty for women.

As women become aroused, the tissues in the vagina produce lubrication that allows the penis to slide in and out comfortably.  It’s probably not something we even think about when we’re younger!

But the onset of the menopause means a drop in oestrogen levels, and it’s the oestrogens that plump up the tissues and cause the lubrication to flow.

Treating vaginal dryness.

There’s an article on vaginal dryness here, which will talk in more depth about the sex and the mature coupleproblem.

  • Lubricants are available over the counter at the pharmacy and supermarket.  Many are formulated specifically for sex.  Examples are Sliquid, Durex Play, K-Y Jelly, ID Glide, WET and Astroglide.  Note that water-based lubricants are easier to use and less likely to cause vaginal infections.

SYLK is a personal lubricant that’s also available from the pharmacy.  It is designed specifically for women experiencing vaginal dryness during the menopause.  It is paraben free.

  • Oestrogen replacement.  There are some health concerns for women using oestrgen replacement for vaginal dryness because it’s thought they can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and breast cancer.  These risks and your own personal risks for these conditions should be discussed with your healthcare professional.

There are vaginal creams, gels, pessaries and rings that act just in the vaginal area, so the risks are lower for most women, than taking an oral tablet.

Sex and the older man – erectile dysfunction (impotence).

testicle self examIn men, this is the most common sexual problem they (and their partners) encounter. Sometimes it’s a problem with getting an erection to begin with and for other men it’s not being able to maintain the erection once they have one.  Sometimes the erection is softer, less full and therefore penetration is more difficult.

As well as a side effect of some medications, and also part of other health problems (heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure for example) other causes of erection problems include:

  • Low testosterone levels
  • Decreased blood flow to the penis
  • The nerves to the penis not working well
  • The erectile tissue becoming less elastic over time.

See this article on erectile dysfunction for some diagrams and more explanation.

Treating impotence.

  1. If you’re taking medication for disorders such as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease, talk to your prescriber.  There may be different drugs that will have the effect you need but without erection problems as a side effect.
  2. Medications such as Viagra or Cialis work by widening the blood vessels into the erectile tissue in the penis.
  3. Penile injections aren’t as bad as they sound and they work well for people who have problems like diabetes, or those who can’t use the medications above.  A drug that helps develop and maintain an erection is injected directly into the penis.  The needle used is very tiny.
  4. Mechanical devices like pumps and penile bands work well to help you achieve and maintain your erection.  They take a bit of practice to get used to but are effective for many couples.
  5. Surgical implants are available for men who haven’t found any of the above to be successful.  More about them in the article above.

Sex and older men and women.

Loss of libido is a common problem.  It may be temporary and caused by:

  • Emotional worries, depression, anxiety
  • Health problems such as diabetes, stroke or heart disease
  • Low sex hormone levels (testosterone in men and oestrogen in women)
  • A side effect of medications you’re taking.

In these cases, if you both have a low libido and maintain a warm relationship there shouldn’t be a problem.  Problems often arise when one person’s libido is higher than the other’s.  At this time it’s worth talking to a medical professional and/or a couples’ counselor to help you maintain the harmony in your relationship.

A special note for those in new relationships in later life.

There has been a large rise in the numbers of men and women in their 50s and 60s attending sexual health clinics with sexually transmitted infections. condom4

STIs can occur in any sexually active person, whatever their age.  For further information, look at this section on the site:  sexual health.

And, if you aren’t already, get comfortable with asking a new partner to wear a condom to prevent disease.  Here’s how.

For more on sex as we get older, see this Everyday Health article.

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