Senior to Senior
So you're not 25 anymore and why would you want to be? You've had years of relationships and sexual experiences, both good and bad, from which to learn. Our culture holds young adults as the pinnacle of sexual activity and the sexual desires of seniors are often ignored or turned into a joke. Fortunately, there are many individuals and organizations devoted to promoting sexual health and education among seniors. Studies show that seniors are having and enjoying sex just as much or even more than those younger than them. In fact, a recent study states, "sex with a partner in the previous year was reported by 73 percent of people ages 57 to 64; 53 percent of those ages 64 to 75, and 26 percent of people 75 to 85." (1) Seniors also have their own specific sexual concerns, worries and problems. With age come new ways to enjoy sex and new challenges that come along with watching your body once again change and adapt to a new era of your life.
Don't Look Back
Your past sexual experiences are what have shaped your sexuality today, but that doesn't mean they have to hold you back in the future. Learn from your past experiences, but don't compare. You have probably changed physically, mentally and sexually in even just the past ten years, so don't be worried when your sexual activities aren't identical to what they were when you were 20 or 40 or 60. Our hormones, brains, and genitals go through many change as we age, so it is only natural that we have different sexual desires, dislikes and health concerns.
Are there sexual positions you used to hate, but now love? Are some activities painful that weren't before? Do you find yourself desiring new types of sex? Acknowledge these new feelings and use them to your advantage to inspire yourself to explore sexually. Do health concerns or physical conditions change the way you can express yourself sexually? Do you now need to use enhancements like Viagra or vaginal moisturizers to have satisfying sex? Don't be embarrassed; do research about your health issues and explore different treatment methods. Not all treatments are boring or expensive. For example, one way to combat vaginal dryness is to have more sex! Have fun exploring the full spectrum of sexual activity to find behaviors that are pleasurable and healthy for you.
Never Too Late
Some seniors may insist that they are simply "too old" or too "stuck in their ways" to think about sexuality, safer sex issues and health concerns related to sexual behavior. It is never too late to think about sex and sexual health. Most seniors matured in a different social era where sex was a significantly more taboo topic than it is now, use of safer sex methods was less widespread and research on the sexual practices of seniors was nonexistent. It's understandable if you or your peers still find sex to be an uncomfortable and impolite topic, but it's also important to question these feelings. It's never too late to reevaluate your ideas and behaviors surrounding sexuality. This is especially important to do so if you have little experience with safer sex practices. Though not discussed very often in the media, seniors are still becoming infected with STIs and HIV through unsafe sex. 15% of new HIV cases are in individuals over 50-years-old (2). Everyone, no matter what age, should use condoms to protect themselves from STIs. It is never too late to practice safer sex.
You don't need to become a sex expert, but looking for answers to your, your partner's and your peers' sexual questions is an extraordinarily worthwhile way to improve your emotional and physical health. Give yourself permission to revel in the new wealth of sexual education available to you to keep you satisfied and healthy.
Your sexual education as a child may have been woefully inadequate or impressively thorough, but don't think that just because you have been having sex for years, you no longer need educating. Much has probably changed since you started having sex; AIDS is still killing millions around the globe, condoms are much more readily available and the Internet has provided a mind-boggling amount of easily-accessible sexual information on any topic. Look through resources focused on your age group as well as general resources on sexuality. Do research with your peers, learn from them and share your own knowledge. Do you not know how to put on a condom? Do you want to buy sex toys but don't know where? Do you think you have an STI? Don't be embarrassed, it's extraordinarily easy to find this information anywhere from the library to the Internet to your doctor. Research is what will keep you healthy and safe in all of your sexual experiences.
As your body ages, its sexual functions will inevitably change as well. Some may find this distressing as their body begins to react differently than it used to and achieving sexual arousal seems more difficult. These are completely normal processes and should be though of as such. It's not that you can no longer achieve sexual arousal, it's just that it may take longer to do so or you may become aroused in a different way than you are used to. Generally speaking, many women find they have a decrease in vaginal lubrication while men find they have more difficulty getting and maintaining an erection. This is due to their bodies decreasing level of the hormones estrogen and testosterone, respectively. It is important to remember that these issues are not your or your partner's fault, it's all part of the aging process. You are also not alone; about half of men and women in a study on seniors and sex reported some type of sexual problem (3). Anxiety about sexual performance and aging can actually add to difficulty with sexual arousal, so accepting your body and your sexual desires can truly help your sexual health.
Sometimes these biological changes in sexual function become a problem. Some are easily remedied while others may require a trip to the doctor or medication. Many seniors use sexual enhancements to help with these issues. Talk to your friends and your partner and ask if they use any of these. Many may even be excited to share their stories with you. Vaginal moisturizers, regular sexual activity, drinking a lot of fluids and using lubricant during sex can all help combat vaginal dryness. Using a cock ring and trying different sexual positions can help men sustain firmer erections. Medication like Viagra is also popular among men with erectile dysfunction. For some, the issue is psychological and they may choose to see a therapist or sex counselor. Maintaining a healthy diet and not smoking or drinking alcohol can help both sexes increase sexual arousal. Increased and longer foreplay also helps sexual arousal in any stage of life.
1. CNN. Study: Seniors having more sex than you think . August 22, 2007. http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/08/22/senior.sex/
2. Center for Disease Control http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/testing/resources/qa/qa_general-public.htm
3. CNN. Study: Seniors having more sex than you think . August 22, 2007. http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/08/22/senior.sex/