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In most healthy adults, pleasure and interest in sex remain as they age. Age alone is no reason to change the sexual practices that you have enjoyed throughout your life. But you may have to make a few minor adjustments to accommodate any physical limitations you may have or the effects of certain illnesses or medicines.
It's never too late to start having sex. Many older people who have been celibate for years develop satisfying sex lives. And self-stimulation (masturbation) is normal, common, and healthy.
You may have sexual changes as you get older. But some changes may be the first sign of a medical problem. So talk with your doctor about any changes that concern you. He or she may be able to recommend treatments that will help you.
Here are some other considerations:
Most physical changes are the result of decreasing testosterone levels. These changes affect energy, strength, muscle and fat mass, and bone density. They can also affect sexual function.
Most physical changes take place after menopause. They're the result of decreased estrogen levels. You can use estrogen therapies, such as creams or patches, to soothe dryness and irritation.
Not everyone has these problems. If you do have problems, you can look for ways to enjoy sex in spite of them.
Besides physical changes, cultural and psychological factors can affect sexuality in later years. For example, in our culture, sexuality is often tied to youthful looks and vigour. Too many people seem to think that as a person ages, they become less desirable and less of a sexual being. Older adults may accept this stereotype. They may feel that they're not allowed or expected to be sexual.
There are no age limits to joy in sex and loving. Almost everyone is able to find lifelong pleasure in sex. If you believe the myth that older people have no interest in sex, you could miss out on wonderful possibilities.
Being single (through choice, divorce, or widowhood) can present a problem as you get older. You may not have as many people in your age group to choose from. People who are single may not know how to deal with their sexual feelings. In general, it's better to express your desires than to suppress them until you are no longer aware that they exist.
Physical and emotional needs change with time and circumstance. Intimacy and sexuality may or may not be important to you. You can live a fulfilling life without sex. But if you choose to enjoy your sexuality, you deserve to be supported and encouraged. You may still find uncharted sensual areas to explore.
Touch, affection, and intimacy are important at any age.
Touch is a wonderful and needed sensation. Babies who are not touched do not thrive. Children who are not touched develop emotional problems. Touch is important to older adults as well. Touch helps us feel connected with others.
To give and receive affection is a wonderful feeling. If you like someone, be sure to let them know. If someone seems to like you, appreciate it. It is never too late to make new friends and strengthen bonds with longtime companions.
Intimacy is the capacity for a close physical or emotional connection with another person. Intimacy is a great protector against depression.
Talking with a confidant can help ease life's problems. When you lose a loved one, intimacy may be what you miss most. You may not find someone to fully replace a loved one who died, but you can begin to rebuild intimacy in your life in the following ways:
Sexually transmitted infections—also known as STIs—are infections passed from person to person through sexual intercourse, genital contact, or contact with semen, vaginal fluids, or blood.
Older people may think of STIs as a problem that affects only young people. But older adults can get STIs too.
Do the following things to help prevent STIs:
As you age, your immune system is not as strong, so it's harder to fight off disease. And women who are past menopause have thinner vaginal walls and less vaginal moisture than they did before menopause. Using a lubricant, such as K-Y Jelly, may keep you from getting a sore or a tiny cut on your penis or inside your vagina. This can reduce your risk of getting STIs or HIV.
For older adults, this means always using condoms and lubricants until you are in a monogamous relationship and know your partner's sexual history and STI and HIV status.
STIs can affect anyone, no matter what his or her age. Talk with your partner, and take whatever precautions are needed to protect yourself before you engage in any form of sexual contact.
If you think you may have an STI, see your doctor.
Adaptation Date: 2/23/2022
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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