While it may not be a topic that most adult children of seniors want to think about, older adults can stay sexually active for as long as they are physically capable. In fact, because age comes with a certain measure of self-confidence and wisdom, seniors are sometimes enjoying sex more than they did when they were younger.
The need for physical intimacy is ageless because it can be a powerfully emotional experience, as well as a great way to protect or even improve one’s health. In general, most people want and need to be close to other humans, and that includes having relationships filled with affection and intimacy. That very human need doesn’t just vanish when we reach a certain age.
That said, sex is a physical activity, not just an emotional one. So as the body changes with age, sex may also have to change a little. After all, normal aging comes with physiological changes in both men and women – changes that can affect your ability to have sex and how much you enjoy it.
For women, vaginal changes can include a reduced ability to produce lubrication or it may take longer for the vagina to lubricate itself naturally. This is where a water-based lubricant can help prevent painful intercourse. For men, they may experience some difficulty achieving a full erection, a condition known as erectile dysfunction.
Other conditions that can have an impact on sexual activity include:
- Diabetes. Because diabetes can cause problems with blood flow throughout your circulatory system leading to nerve damage, it often leads to erectile dysfunction.
- Dementia. While people with dementia can actually have an increased interest in sex, they may lack judgment about acceptable sexual behavior, such as showing interest in someone in an appropriate manner.
- Chronic pain. In some cases, chronic pain can make intimacy uncomfortable and less enjoyable. Chronic pain can be treated and does not have to be part of getting old. Some pain medications can also reduce sexual function.
- Heart disease. Typically, heart disease is associated with poor circulation, which means for both men and women, achieving orgasm could prove difficult.
Health benefits of sex
At any age, an active sex life is good for you. For seniors, who are always encouraged to participate in heart-healthy activities, sex qualifies because it requires movement of your muscles and joints and increases your heart rate. It also boosts your immune system and, as it relieves stress, it also lowers your blood pressure. For women, sex is a workout for the muscles of the pelvic floor, so it helps reduce the risk of prolapse and incontinence.
Emotionally, sex can be great for your self-esteem and mental health, especially for seniors. That’s because it can help you feel better about yourself and more positive about your body. The emotional benefits of having someone desire you sexually can be very affirming, along with helping build a strong connection and intimacy with your partner.
Safe sex… still important
One thing that doesn’t change for sexually active seniors is that they still need to be concerned about having safe sex. Aging does not make you less susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases, which means it is important to use protection if your sex life is not an exclusive one with your partner. In fact, the growth rate of older people being infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is on an upward trend. So, using condoms is just as important at an advanced age as it is at any other stage in life.