Health and Fitness
February 12, 2013
Contact: Diana Yee, 510-271-6671
Fan the Flame: Sex after 50
Six tips for a healthy sex life as you age
The need for intimacy is ageless. As people reach midlife and beyond, they may experience some physical changes, but age is no reason to limit or end a healthy sex life. In fact, studies link sexual activity, good health and longer life.
With the explosion of baby boomers reaching retirement age, there will likely be an increasing interest in how to keep desire burning in the bedroom.
“Many women are surprised by the impact menopause has on their sex life. Some women enjoy sex more after menopause, while others feel a drop in interest,” said Arthur Hayward, MD, a geriatrician and the clinical lead physician for elder care with Kaiser Permanente’s Care Management Institute. “Men may feel a decline in their sex drive and may want to learn about treatment for erectile dysfunction. Whatever the situation, be honest and open with your doctor about your concerns, so you can get the help you need to improve your sexual health.”
Below are six tips from Kaiser Permanente to help older adults enjoy a physically and emotionally fulfilling sex life. Also visit kp.org for more information.
As people age, women lose estrogen and men lose testosterone. These hormonal changes may lead to changes in libido. So it’s important to make the time to talk with your partner. Openly discussing your concerns and what you’re experiencing emotionally and physically can bring you closer and help you both enjoy sex and intimacy.
- Spend time with your partner
Take a walk. Go to dinner or to the movies. Relax. Focus on intimacy and physical touch. Hold hands, hug and show affection. Sex and sexuality communicate a great deal: affection, love, esteem, warmth, sharing and bonding. These gifts are as much the right of older adults as they are of those who are younger.
Enjoy sex in the morning or the afternoon rather than at night when you and your partner are tired. Take your time. Longer foreplay can increase vaginal lubrication and boost a woman’s desire. Women may want to try a lubricant. Men may want to try sensual exercises with their partner. The mind is an erogenous zone. Fantasy and imagination help arouse some people. Try setting the mood with candlelight and soft music, or whatever else “turns you on.”
- Practice safe sex
It’s important to practice safe sex. Studies confirm that older people are having more sex than some think and the rates of sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have doubled for people in their 50s, 60s and 70s in the past decade. Play it safe.
- Learn what works for you, and know when to seek help.
You may have to make minor adjustments to accommodate physical limitations or the effects of certain illnesses or medications. Learn about the common physical changes that come with aging. Talk with your doctor about any changes that concern you. Some may be the first sign of a medical problem.
Many medications, especially high blood pressure medications, tranquilizers and some heart medications, inhibit sexual response. Your doctor may be able to reduce your dosage or prescribe different medications. Do not stop taking prescription medications without consulting your doctor first. Colostomies, mastectomies and other procedures that involve changes in physical appearance need not put an end to sexual pleasure.
Exercise can increase energy and stamina. Keeping in shape can help improve the body physically and improve body image. Women can tone up with Kegel exercises. These simple exercises can improve your sexual function and improve bladder control at the same time. People who have heart conditions can enjoy full, satisfying sex lives. Most doctors recommend that you abstain from sex for only a brief time following a heart attack. If you have angina, ask your doctor about taking nitroglycerin before you have sex. Do not take erectile dysfunction medication if you are using nitroglycerin.
Here are some additional considerations:
- If arthritis keeps you from enjoying sex, experiment with different positions. Try placing cushions under your hips. Also try home treatment for arthritis pain.
- Use a water-based vaginal lubricant, to reduce vaginal dryness or irritation. Do not use petroleum jelly. A doctor can also prescribe a vaginal cream containing estrogen, which will help reverse the changes in vaginal tissues.
- Drink alcohol only in moderation. Small amounts of alcohol may heighten your sexual responsiveness by squelching your inhibitions. Larger amounts of alcohol may actually decrease your sexual performance.
- Prescription medications and sometimes herbs, such as ginkgo biloba and ginseng, are used to enhance sexual function. Both prescription drugs and herbal remedies carry the risk of side effects.