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Sex and ageing: Fact or fiction?

Sex and ageing: Fact or fiction?

Sex at midlife and beyond is a subject filled with confusion and misinformation; here are some common myths and the straight story

Change is inevitable with age, as is the case with sexual lives. But with so many myths and misconceptions surrounding the topic, it can be challenging to separate fact from fiction.

Whether you are curious about what to expect or are seeking ways to maintain a healthy and satisfying sex life in your later years, here are the facts and fictions of sex and ageing.

Sex and ageing: Fact or fiction? - Smiling wife hugging old man sitting on couch from behind.Credit: Ridofranz

Fiction: Beyond a certain age, people have little interest in sex.

Fact: There is no age limit on sexuality, but for people aged 50 and over, sexual satisfaction depends more on the overall quality of the relationship than it does for younger couples.

"For those 50 and over, sexual satisfaction depends more on the overall quality of the relationship than it does for younger couples"

The Australian HSOP project found that 49 per cent of men and 24 per cent of women over the age of 65 were in a sexual relationship. Once they reached 75 and over, figures drop to 23 per cent of men and 9 per cent of women in a sexual relationship.

Fiction: A woman loses her ability to have orgasms as she ages.

Fact: Many women find increased sexual pleasure after menopause, including more frequent or more intense orgasms.

Fiction: A man’s inability to achieve an erection is most likely due to an emotional problem.

Fact: Actually, physical causes—such as circulation problems, prostate disorders and the side effects associated with prescription medications— account for 85 per cent of erectile difficulties.

Fiction: As a man ages, he loses his ability to achieve an erection.

Fact: Ageing itself is not a cause of erectile dysfunction. However, diminishing hormone levels do precipitate some changes. A man may need more physical stimulation to become aroused and his erection may not be quite as firm as when he was younger—but sex is no less pleasurable.

"Ageing itself is not a cause of erectile dysfunction, but diminishing hormone levels do precipitate some changes"

While a 25-year-old man might be able to achieve a second erection as quickly as 15 minutes after an ejaculation, a 50-year-old man might need several hours.

Fiction: Masturbation diminishes your ability to enjoy sex with a partner.

Fact: Masturbation can increase sexual pleasure, both with and without a partner. For women, it helps keep vaginal tissues moist and elastic and boosts hormone levels, which fuel sex drive. For men, it helps maintain erectile response.

Fiction: Emotional and psychological factors are responsible for a woman’s lack of interest in sex at midlife and beyond.

Fact: Physical factors can play an even larger role. Hormonal changes at menopause can affect a woman’s sexual response. Low oestrogen levels can result in vaginal dryness, causing discomfort during sex.

"Other women find their interest in sex increases after menopause due to a shift in the ratio of testosterone to oestrogen and progesterone"

And in some women, lower testosterone levels can mean a lack of energy and a weaker sex drive. Other women find their interest in sex increases after menopause, due, in part, to a shift in the ratio of testosterone to oestrogen and progesterone.

Fiction: Couples who don’t have regular sex have lost interest in sex or in each other.

Fact: When older couples don’t have regular sex, it’s usually because one partner has an illness or disability

Keeping the passion in your desire

Sex and ageing: Fact or fiction? - Older couple toasting each other at romantic dinnerCredit: Tom Merton

Hormones might be responsible for sex drive, but by nurturing your passion for one another, you can keep the flames of desire burning strong. Here are a few tips to rekindle the fire:

Plan your encounters. Schedule your amorous adventures so they don’t get away from you. Planning to make love creates anticipation and piques interest. You don’t have to go anywhere or do anything special. Set aside time just for each other.

Change your routine. If you and your partner have been together for a long time, then chances are you have a fairly established pattern when it comes to making love. The next time you find yourself starting your regular ritual, try to make some tweaks. Shower together instead of separately, light scented candles in your bedroom, or massage each other with heated body oil. Wear something exciting and surprising to bed. Consider a change of venue and check into a hotel for a romantic weekend getaway.

Slow down and enjoy it more. Even though it is natural for your body to slow down, your brain may still be telling you to move things along at a faster pace. Just relax and enjoy the whole journey. Explore new ways to stimulate your partner outside of actual intercourse. Take great pleasure in both giving and receiving, and just let things unfold at their natural pace.

Try different positions. Sometimes health issues make your formerly favourite lovemaking positions uncomfortable or even impossible. If arthritis is a problem, try a side-to-side position, which will relieve any need to support yourself or accommodate your partner’s weight. Seated positions let you vary the depth of penetration while giving you additional support (especially if you place your back against a wall or the back of a chair).

Continue your lovemaking over several sessions. Rather than rushing through a “quickie”, try breaking off your lovemaking and returning later to pick up where you left off. A man can often find that he has enjoyed a lovemaking session giving pleasure to his partner even if he hasn’t experienced orgasm himself.

Banner credit: Diamond Dogs

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