Sexuality in old age

Many people today, especially young people, still think of sexuality as something that ends when women can no longer have children. They believe that only young people can really experience erotic tension and have a high need for sexual satisfaction, while this all decreases more and more from middle age and finally stops completely in old age. Young people are considered healthy, while the normal physical changes of old age are often associated with illness.

Sexuality in old age is normal

But it is true – even if only a few talk about it: sexuality in old age is not an unusual thing worth admiring, but something completely normal. According to an American study, in a group with an average age of 86 years, 64% of the women and 82% of the men still had regular sexual contact. This topic is only rarely discussed, as sexuality in old age is not as spectacular and exciting as it is in youth. Just different.

What does “Sexuality in old age is different” mean?

There is no age limit for a satisfying sexuality. However, the type of sexual contact changes with age. As a rule, the frequency of sexual contacts decreases with age. There is also a shift from sexual intercourse to more other tender sexual contacts. Because sexuality is not just limited to sexual intercourse in all age groups.

However, in the group of very old people described above, 63% of the men and 30% of the women still stated that they had regular sexual intercourse. But of course it’s different for everyone. However, there is a simple rule of thumb: For people for whom sexuality has been important all their lives, it will remain so in old age. Anyone who has had little interest in sexuality all their life will not change this even in old age.

Age sexuality is not getting any easier. Apart from the fact that problems that have existed in a partnership for many years continue to exist, of course, one has to consider some factors that affect adult sexuality: the normal changes in our body, social problems, the effects of our lifestyle, the increase in diseases and Effects of treatment of diseases.

Changes in the body affect sexuality

The older we get, the more noticeable the changes of aging become. Our bones and joints become more susceptible to stress. Skin and hair thin and change color. Internal organs also no longer function in the same way. Some of these physical changes also affect sexuality.

 In women, estrogen levels in the blood fall during and after the  menopause (known as “menopause”). Estrogens are the female sex hormones. As a result, the mucous membrane of the vagina is less elastic, becomes thinner and is no longer as moist. That is why sexual intercourse can often cause injuries, the formation of small tears in the mucous membrane, which can lead to pain.

Declining testosterone levels in men

The level of the sex  hormone testosterone also decreases in men  . In addition, the tissue of the penis increasingly loses its elasticity. These changes mean that erections develop less quickly and spontaneously. More physical stimulation is needed to achieve an erection. In addition, the penis is no longer quite as stiff during erections and the erection angle also decreases. This means that you “can’t get it up (quite so) anymore” and often you have to help a little.

In addition, the falling testosterone level means that the feeling of pleasure, the libido, decreases somewhat. Initially, none of these changes have anything to do with illness – nevertheless, it can make sense to counteract them in part with medication.

Social problems

People who openly admit to their sexuality in old age are often admired and smiled at in our society. There are a number of famous people who show us that sexuality can be valuable in old age.

In addition to artists such as Zsa Zsa Gabor, Elizabeth Taylor, Pablo Picasso or Charles Chaplin, there are many prominent men such as Franz Beckenbauer, who in the second half of his life became a father of two, a good example of how to be sexual even at a mature age can stay active.

In particular, many people find it difficult to imagine that their parents and grandparents are sexually active. A cabaret artist once jokingly put it this way: “I would have expected my father to do something dirty like that, but my mother? Never!”

Older women are more likely to be alone

However, apart from these problems of acceptance, there are also very serious problems: women have a much higher life expectancy than men. As a result, many older women do not have a partner to enjoy sex with.

While well over half of the men who live to be over 80 still have a partner, it is not even one in ten women of the same age who still have a partner. After the loss of a life partner, there is often a lack of courage to get involved in a new partnership.

What diseases affect sexuality?

Unfortunately, as we age, the body becomes more susceptible to disease. Many of these diseases affect sexuality. For example, more than half of all older male patients with  diabetes have  erectile problems due to circulatory disorders or impaired nerve conductivity. Arteriosclerosis , popularly known as “vascular calcification”, can also  lead to impaired blood flow to the erectile tissue.

Pelvic surgery can  have a negative impact on sexuality in both women and men  . In women, injuries to nerves and blood vessels can occur during hysterectomies; in men, this often happens during prostate (prostate gland) or bowel surgery. Problems with sexual sensation and  erectile dysfunction  can result.

Another problem affecting old age sexuality is  urinary incontinence . Many older women and men suffer from uncontrolled urination. Talking about it with your partner and the doctor is often difficult, even though there is effective help. Finally,  depressive  moods occur more frequently in old age, which can lead to a significant impairment of sexual interest and the ability to experience. If the depression improves, the joy of sexuality increases again.

impairment from medication

In old age it is often necessary to  take medication for a long time or permanently because of serious or chronic illnesses  . Many of these drugs can affect sexual interest, arousal, and experience.

Switching to another preparation can often help here. However, this should never be done on your own, but only in close consultation with a doctor.

Some lifestyle habits take revenge in old age

Many consequences of lifestyle habits only become noticeable in old age. This applies to heavy cigarette smoking as well as excessive alcohol consumption or a diet that is too high in fat and cholesterol, which has led to  obesity  . This can exacerbate existing erectile dysfunction, especially in men.

Dealing with changing conditions

With many changes in age, it makes sense to adapt one’s sexual behavior to the changed conditions. For example, it can make sense to find and try out new, more comfortable positions for sexual intercourse. The exchange of tenderness or masturbation can become more important than the actual sexual intercourse.

More mature people often find the lack of pressure to perform, which younger people expose themselves to, to be a particular enrichment of old age sexuality.

Remedied by drug treatment

However, in many cases, especially when impaired by diseases and other disorders such as urinary incontinence, there are successful therapy options. Hormonal replacement therapy has proven to be particularly useful for women. There are now very effective treatment options for erectile dysfunction in men.

In the case of many sexual symptoms, it is also important to treat the underlying disease. For example, an erectile dysfunction can also be an indication of the presence of a previously overlooked disease that requires treatment, such as coronary heart disease.

Especially in the case of depression, drug therapy can significantly increase the general quality of life and is usually indispensable for improving the symptoms. However, it is important that you seek a discussion with your doctor, who can give you competent advice. Talking about sex may be difficult at first, but most sex disorders today have effective treatments.

Discuss sexual problems with your partner

As the saying goes, “a sorrow shared is a sorrow halved”. Often the partner unknowingly creates a lot of “performance pressure” in a sexual relationship. And this pressure, often caused by speechlessness, can then lead to an increase in existing sexual problems. Just addressing such a problem can take away a lot of tension, sometimes even completely normalize the sexual relationship.

Since sexuality is always a matter of two people’s affairs, it is often helpful if your partner accompanies you to the doctor if you are considering seeking treatment. It may often take a great effort to address such a problem – not to address it, secrecy, but in almost every case is much more stressful on a relationship in the long run.

Sexual disorders can also be treated in old age

Advanced age is not a reason not to seek treatment for sexual disorders. Rather, it is a matter of attitude.

For example, while certain couples accept the loss of erectile function in their male partner as part of aging and take it for granted, others are unhappy at having to give up a part of their lives that is so important to them. Therefore, age alone should not be an argument against treatment.

Today, 90-year-olds are treated with the same success and methods as younger patients. This applies to medical treatments as well as psychotherapeutic ones.

Sexual pressure to perform in men with younger partners

Many men who are in a relationship with a much younger woman put themselves under sexual pressure to perform, often unintentionally. They then think they have to perform the same “performance” in bed as a much younger man – and this despite all the physical changes. This can then lead to the occurrence of fear of failure to emotionally induced erectile dysfunction.

Here it is important to avoid this competitive situation created by the men themselves and to reduce the tension that has arisen. A younger woman who decides to partner with a more mature man will have her reasons and appreciate certain values. And it is also important for men to pay more attention to this than to concentrate on deficits they have experienced.

In the treatment of erectile dysfunction, for example, an open discussion with your partner about treatment options is much more helpful than the secret use of erection aids, even if it is difficult at first.

Stress on the heart and circulation?

Some older people worry that sexuality is too strenuous in old age and that, for example, the heart could be overloaded. This concern is relatively unfounded: the stress of sexual intercourse is roughly equivalent to climbing stairs at a brisk pace. In principle, this means that anyone who can still climb stairs does not have  to be afraid  of the physical strain of sexual intercourse.

On the contrary, a recently published study showed that men who have been sexually active for a long time appear to have a longer life expectancy.

 

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