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SEX AND AGING
Saving the Best for Last

As you age, your body goes through a series of changes. Guess what - if you understand how these changes work and how to respond to them, many of these changes can enhance your sexuality. Without a doubt, you can have the best sex of your life after fifty! Think of it: the children are out of the house, and every surface is yours to reinvent sex on. (So you’ve always wondered what they meant by ‘the Golden Years’.)  

  WOMEN

Most of the key aging issues women need to be aware are addressed in our section on menopause: With decreased hormone production, the sex drive may diminish. The vaginal walls lose elasticity, shrink and become dryer, and the vagina’s natural lubricating secretions are less abundant during sexual arousal. 

Don’t worry; these symptoms can usually be ameliorated. You may wish to explore hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which can plump up the vagina. And a high quality vaginal lubricant is as good, or better, than the real thing to replace diminishing vaginal secretions. 

It’s also important to keep the vaginal canal healthy, open and strong. Exercising the pelvic muscles and the active use of the genital muscles during some form of vaginal penetration is essential on a regular basis. Lack of use can cause these important muscles to atrophy, and adhesions may form, obstructing or closing the vaginal canal.  

If you have not had penile-vaginal sex for a while and are going to begin, have a pelvic exam first to check for vaginal or clitoral adhesions, check your muscle tone and health, and to gauge the levels of your vaginal elasticity and your lubrication capacity.  

If your vagina has shrunk and the walls have tightened, it’s a good idea to begin a gentle course of inserting a lubricated finger or small dildo into the vaginal canal, focusing on gradually relaxing the vaginal walls. As they relax, you can slowly, gently increase the size of the penetrating object. In the case of a very tight vagina, special vibrating rods of graduating sizes can be utilized to help the muscles relax. If your OBGYN practitioner is not familiar with this technique, contact a sex therapist.  

MEN  

The main sexual issues that concern older men are softer erections of lesser duration, a longer refractory period between erections, less stamina, decreased libido, and an increased need for genital stimulation, often with a firmer touch, in order to become aroused.

The first thing you need to know is that erection and orgasm are controlled by separate nerve functions; softer erections of a shorter duration will not lesson the pleasure or intensity of your orgasm.

The second thing you need to know - and you need to know this in your bones - is that your partner is not dependent on your erection for their sexual satisfaction and orgasm. They never have been! Allow yourself to take a deep breath and stop struggling to keep an erection. Instead, enjoy the delicious array of erotic pleasures that come with relaxed, experienced sex.

The third thing you need to know is that if your partner is a woman, a prolonged arousal period makes you more in harmony with female sexuality, and that many women prefer older male lovers for this reason. In fact, a lot of women report that they feel far more sexually compatible with older male lovers because they relish the more involved, sensuous pace of their sexual play: it’s really what they’ve always wanted. With young men, women are often concerned that they are taking longer than their male partners to become aroused and have an orgasm. Now it’s your turn to accept the assurances that you gave them: spending more time arousing your partner is a pleasure, not a drawback.
The only thing stopping you from enjoying actually having a longer period of pleasure is the fear that you are not “performing” well enough or fast enough.

Ask yourself this: who are you performing for? You are alone with your lover, who is relishing this intimate time with you, not judging you! 

You may also need a firmer physical touch on your genitals to bring about erection than when you were younger. Let your partner know this, and explore being touched in creative new ways.  

Breaking Free of Superficial Youth Culture to Appreciate True Beauty  

Maintaining a healthy self-esteem and secure sexual identity as your body changes with age is often a big hurdle in our youth-oriented culture. We are conditioned to believe that youth and beauty are synonymous, and that youth gives us value and prestige. The powerful, pervasive messages that the media and society impose on us to buy standardized models of youthful “beauty” are everywhere. As we age and our bodies reflect our lifetime of character and maturity, we fit these glossy mass media images less every day! If we accept in our hearts that these models truly define human attractiveness and worth, we feel accordingly diminished and unworthy.  

Fortunately, we can turn this around. One of the sublime gifts of age is the ability to channel our wisdom and life experience towards recognizing and appreciating true beauty - of the soul and character; in you, and in others. To see the magnificent fragility and uniqueness of each person as they mature into a body that expresses the resonant story of their individual life, a deep beauty that no one else can replicate. This is the tender art of living and loving.

 Do the Body Image exercises on this website with this truth in mind.   

Diet and Nutrition

A good, nutritious diet can make a great deal of difference in our sexual vitality. As we age, we have distinct nutritional and dietary needs for our bones, vision, heart, circulatory system, brain function, cell-energy production, and intestinal and pelvic health. What was appropriate and sufficient at twenty is not at seventy.  

Have your doctors monitor your nutritional health just as they do your heart and eyes. Take good vitamin and mineral supplements that are geared to your age, not just general ones.  Eat fresh, micronutrient-rich, plant - based whole foods and get lots of fiber. Having a healthy, nourished system makes a real difference in sexual function and desire. 

Exercise

To maintain sexual vitality and stamina, it’s essential to exercise regularly. A simple and enjoyable fitness work out three to five days a week that includes stretch, strengthening and aerobic exercise keeps the blood flowing, the lungs expanding, and the muscles toned. It not only increases your sex drive, but your total wellness and appetite for life!

 Your exercise routine should include exercises for the genital muscles, which need to be kept in good condition as we age, so that they can lift and protect our internal organs - and enhance our sexual pleasure. 

 

Viagra and Other Erectile Dysfunction Medications

Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, Staxyn, and Stendra are the five drugs currently approved by the FDA to treat erectile dysfunction. Although there are subtle differences between these drugs in terms of how quickly they are effective and how long they last, they act in much the same way. I’ll describe the most commonly prescribed drug, Viagra, as an example of how this class of ED drugs works: A pill of Viagra taken an hour prior to sex will help block a particular enzyme that decreases penile blood flow, thus increasing the flow of blood into the spongy tissues of the penile shaft.  

Viagra is not a panacea. It’s about 66% effective in men experiencing erectile dysfunction, and it does not improve the erectile capacity of men who are already functional. It is not an aphrodisiac, and should not cause erection unless the penis is sexually stimulated.  

For best results, avoid taking Viagra with high-fat foods. 

Viagra should only be used under a physicians’ supervision due to its’ potential medical hazards. Men using nitrate heart medicines, high blood pressure medication, or experiencing any issues with blood dilation should not use Viagra because it increases arterial dilation.  

If a Viagra-assisted erection does not subside naturally after orgasm but persists without change, seek medical treatment. This is a potentially dangerous situation that requires immediate attention. Sustained erection lasting longer than four hours can cause permanent damage to the penile tissues. 

Unfortunately, Viagra is very expensive, making it out of the financial reach of many middle and low income men. It is also not covered under most medical insurance plans. Until sexual wellness is recognized by the medical community as essential to human health, Viagra will remain categorized as a luxury drug. Let’s change that by changing our society’s values about the overall importance of human sexual health.

A few things to keep in mind while savoring the autumn bounty of mature sex:

Women can get pregnant after the appearance of menopause – long after. Keep using birth control. 

Men can father children all of their lives. Keep using birth control.

You can get sexually transmitted infections (STI's) at any age.

Older people are at special risk from STI's because doctors may assume that you have  stopped being sexually active, and so become less attentive to your sexual health. STI's may also be misdiagnosed because their symptoms mimic other health problems associated with age. Keep practicing safer sex, and get tested regularly when you're sexually active.

If you know a senior who is embarrassed to talk about STI concerns, help them by making informative literature available, offering nonjudgmental conversation and knowledge, and by making yourself available to accompany them to medical examinations, STI testing, and any follow-through appointments. 



For a good link on how other drugs can affect sex, click here:

Resources

 Dr. Lonnie Barbach

www.lonniebarbach.com

A pioneer sex therapist and educator, Dr. Barbach answers questions about sex after 60 directly through her website.

 

American Association of Retired Persons

www.aarp.org

The AARP Magazine (for members) periodically has good articles on sexual issues for older people.

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 Photographs 2,3, and,5 : www.Kozzi.com  Image 6: Seeder, wikipedia commons  
English Man Nude by Oddman Wikipdiea Commons
 
 
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