RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN AGING AND SEXUAL DEPRESSION
Sexuality is one aspect of the emotional and physical intimacy that men and women experience throughout their lives. In adulthood, the closest intimacy is accomplished by physical and sexual relationships. Sexual intimacy is desired by older adults when there is a partner and a health status that allows sexual relationships. Older individuals desire to love and enjoy sexual activity in relation to personal circumstances, and when health status allows them to experience close relations, most often within marriage. Normal changes occur in the phases of a sexual cycle with aging, mainly men needing more time and stimulation to achieve a complete erection.
Many people want and need to be close to others as they grow older. For some, this includes the desire to continue an active, satisfying sex life. With aging, that may mean adapting the sexual activity to accommodate physical, health, and other changes.
There are many different ways to have sex and be intimate alone or with a partner. The expression of your sexuality could include many types of touch or stimulation. Some adults may choose not to engage in sexual activity, and that’s also normal.
Here, we explore some of the common problems older adults may face with sex.
Changes that occur with aging
Normal aging brings physical changes in both men and women. These changes sometimes affect the ability to have and enjoy sex.
- Changes in the vagina: As a woman ages, her vagina can shorten and narrow. Her vaginal walls can become thinner and a little stiffer. Most women will have less vaginal lubrication, and it may take more time for the vagina to naturally lubricate itself. These changes could make certain types of sexual activity, such as vaginal penetration, painful or less desirable.
- As men get older, impotence (also called erectile dysfunction, or ED) becomes more common. ED is the loss of ability to have and keep an erection. ED may cause a man to take longer to have an erection. His erection may not be as firm or as large as it used to be. The loss of erection after orgasm may happen more quickly, or it may take longer before another erection is possible.
Talk with your partner about these changes and how you are feeling. Your doctor may have suggestions to help make sex easier.
What Causes Sexual Problems?
Some illnesses, disabilities, medicines, and surgeries can affect your ability to have and enjoy sex. This includes:
- Chronic pain.
- Heart disease
Can Emotions Play a Part?
Sexuality is often a delicate balance of emotional and physical issues. How you feel may affect what you are able to do and what you want to do. Many older couples find greater satisfaction in their sex lives than they did when they were younger. In many cases, they have fewer distractions, more time and privacy, no worries about getting pregnant, and greater intimacy with a lifelong partner.
As we age, our bodies change, including our weight, skin, and muscle tone, and some older adults don’t feel as comfortable in their aging bodies. Older adults, men and women alike, may worry that their partners will no longer find them attractive. Aging-related sexual problems like the ones listed above can cause stress and worry. This worry can get in the way of enjoying fulfilling sex life.
Older couples face the same daily stresses that affect people of any age. They may also have the added concerns of illness, retirement, and lifestyle changes, all of which may lead to sexual difficulties. Talk openly with your partner, and try not to blame yourself or your partner. You may also find it helpful to talk with a therapist, either alone or with your partner. Some therapists have special training in helping with sexual problems. If you sense changes in your partner’s attitude toward sex, don’t assume they are no longer interested in you or inactive sex life. Talk about it. Many of the things that cause sexual problems in older adults can be helped.
What Can I Do?
There are things you can do on your own for active and enjoyable sex life. If you have a long-term partner, take time to enjoy each other and to understand the changes you both are facing.
Don’t be afraid to talk with your doctor if you have a problem that affects your sex life.
If you’re in a relationship, you and your partner may discover new ways to be together as you get older. Talk to your partner or partners about your needs. You may find that affection, hugging, kissing, touching, and spending time together can be just what you need, or a path to greater intimacy and sex.