Age-Related Sexual Changes in Men and Women
Let's face it, growing older means facing some physical changes--graying hair, some wrinkles, maybe a few extra pounds that stay stubbornly on the hips. But aging brings changes in sexuality, too. Every person's experience is different and to some extent, age is less of a predictor of changes in sexuality than health.
"There's fair evidence that if we keep ourselves healthy and engaged mentally, we would expect to see fewer changes," says Stacy Tessler Lindau, MD, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago. Men and women who are on medications for a chronic disorder like diabetes may experience a lessened sexual desire. Unfortunately, a decreased libido is a side effect of many medications.
Still, men and women, no matter how healthy, should anticipate some changes. Here's the 411 on what you can expect and how you can maintain a great sex life in any decade.
Vaginal dryness is extremely common in older women, says Lindau. Dropping estrogen levels mean decreased lubrication in the vaginal area, and the vaginal walls thin out, too.
Sexy solution: Make sure that you're well lubricated if it's not happening naturally. Water and silicone-based lubricants are best if you are using a condom, since oil-based lubricants are not compatible with condoms, Lindau says. If you're not using a condom, any lubricant works.
Breast changes "We all know they get kind of saggy with time," Lindau says. But additionally, breasts don't react to orgasm the same way they do in a younger woman. In someone younger, the breasts become a little fuller and the nipples more erect when a woman reaches orgasm. Not so for older women.
Sexy solution: Breasts still respond to foreplay, so make sure your partner doesn't neglect this part of your body.
Thinning of the fat pad over the pubic bone This may mean a woman is more sensitive to pressure during intercourse, Lindau explains.
Sexy solution: Use pillows during intercourse as needed to relieve pressure.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) plagues many older men who find that they have trouble getting a full erection. And while younger men can be easily aroused simply by visual stimulation, older men often are not. It also may take them longer to have an orgasm.
Sexy solution: The good news for men is that there are many prescription remedies available. And if a man can't take Viagra or a similar medication, a penile prosthesis can be prescribed. There are a couple of types, including a semi-rigid one or an inflatable prosthesis, explains Franklin C. Lowe, MD, MPH, professor of clinical urology at Columbia University School of Medicine in New York City. There are also injectable medications that can be used if Viagra doesn't work. These are injected directly into the penis.
Reduced levels of testosterone As a man grows older, there's simply less glandular tissue in his prostate and a smaller ejaculation, Lowe says. A man also makes less testosterone. "Physiologically, men peak in their erection somewhere between 18 and 22 in terms of blood flow, libido and sensation," Lowe explains. "But most men don't notice any change until they reach their 50s or 60s."
Sexy solution: More physical foreplay with your partner. And if you're not with a long term monogamous partner and will be using a condom, make sure that a full erection is reached before putting the condom in place. Otherwise, there is the danger that it could slip off during intercourse. There also are testosterone ointments and patches available, Lowe says.
For Men and Women
Disorders like arthritis can diminish sexual pleasure for both sexes, as can a variety of medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease.
Sexy solution: Use strategically placed pillows to ensure bodily comfort during intercourse. Try side-lying rather than having one person on top of the other so there's less weight and straining on the hips and joints. And if you or your partner take libido-killing meds, ask your doctor whether less medication might be possible if you were able to reduce your need for such medications through diet and exercise.
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