Men and women develop doubts about their sex life as they age. This can be due to the changes in their body, medical conditions that affect their daily lives, physical appearance, reduced sexual interests and emotional issues in their relationships. Elderly people also feel apprehensive discussing their sexual desires with their partner or their doctor for the fear of being judged by family and society.
Factors hindering sex in older individuals can be resolved or modified with the help of medications and counseling by healthcare practitioners. Sex life can be more satisfying and enjoyable in the older age, as pressures of the youth like earning, work pressure, children and time constraints are not present.
Also, with a healthy sex life in the elderly people, stress is relieved as brain releases certain good hormones (endorphins), which improve the overall wellbeing of the individual. A Healthy sex life and sexual desire have a positive effect on life expectancy too. Expression of love and affection in the elderly improves intimacy and helps in building a strong bond with their partner.
Factors which Affect Sex Life in the Elderly
- Reduced sexual desire with difficulty in maintaining erection in men, which is caused due to reduced male hormone (testosterone) levels in the body with aging.
- Vaginal elasticity and natural lubrication are reduced causing pain during sex. This is commonly owed to less estrogen levels during menopause.
- Low sexual interest in both men and women.
- Lack of a partner.
- Medical conditions like joint pain (arthritis), obesity, psychological conditions (depression, dementia, schizophrenia), diabetes, stroke, loss of bladder control (incontinence), heart disease and chronic pain can affect sexual activity with loss of interest in sex life.
- Medications like tranquillizers, antidepressants, drugs used to treat high blood pressure, antacids (cimetidine), drugs used in allergies, drugs used to treat seizures (phenytoin, carbamazepine) and hormone drugs can affect sex life.
- Alcohol consumption and smoking can affect the sexual desire and sexual performance in people of any age group.
What can be done to Improve Sexual Life in the Elderly?
It is important to understand your body’s response and act accordingly. The following steps can be helpful to have a fulfilling and satisfying sexual life in the older age:
- Communicate with your partner about your choices or preferences.
- Talk to your doctor about your doubts and to know more about the drugs you use, their side effects and how to cope with their side effects (request for change of drug or strength).
- In women, vaginal lubricants that can be applied directly are prescribed to make sex more comfortable. Vaginal estrogens are prescribed for oral use if the problem is severe.
- Problems with erection and ejaculation can be managed with drugs (phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors, sidenafil), devices (vacuum device) and counseling on elderly sex.
- Practice safe sex (use condoms) to prevent transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.
- Spend time with your partner finding different ways to enjoy sex life like, having fore play (hugging, kissing, affectionate talk), trying different positions and having sex in the early hours of the day when you have had enough amount of rest through the night.
- Elderly people with heart problems, who are stable with good heart functioning, can have a satisfying sexual life after approval by their doctor. Doctors test these individuals for stress and give suggestions on how to deal with it.
- Having an active life style with adequate exercise, optimal weight management and balanced diet helps in keeping diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis and heart problems in control. Medical conditions that are managed properly improve overall well being and there by sexual life also.
- Limiting alcohol and quitting smoking also plays an important role in a healthy sex life.