Maintaining sexual function as you age

While it's normal for your sex life to slow down as you get older, sexual health is important at any age. When it comes to sex, the saying,
While it's normal for your sex life to slow down as you get older, sexual health is important at any age. When it comes to sex, the saying, "use it or lose it," applies to both men and women.

While it's normal for your sex life to slow down as you get older, sexual health is important at any age. The desire for closeness and intimacy is natural, and it's possible to have a thriving sex life no matter what your age. The key to keeping a healthy sex life is staying sexually active. When it comes to sex, the saying, "use it or lose it," applies to both men and women.

Maintaining sexual function as you age isn't just fun, it also has important health benefits. A satisfying sex life can benefit you in a number of ways, including: 

Better sleep

Your body produces the hormones prolactin and oxytocin during and after orgasm. Both of these are relaxation hormones that can help you get a good night's sleep.

Exercise

If your sex is particularly energetic, you can reap the benefits of aerobic exercise and strength training

Lower blood pressure

Feeling good and exercising — two activities that go together with sexual intercourse — can help lower your blood pressure.

Healthier heart

Having sex increases your heart rate which is good for your health. It also helps balance your sex hormones, which is beneficial to your heart as well. 

Stronger immune system

Having regular sex once or twice a week can boost your immune system. It helps your body produce higher levels of antibodies that help fight diseases. 

Pain relief

If you're suffering from the aches and pains of aging, having an orgasm offers natural pain relief.

Sexual stimulation causes your body to release natural pain-relieving hormones that can help with:

Reduced risk of prostate cancer for men

Men who ejaculate at least 21 times per month have a lower risk of prostate cancer than men who have fewer ejaculations. 

Stronger bladder

Women who engage in regular sexual activity have stronger bladders and better bladder control over the muscles. It also helps lubricate a woman's vagina, which makes sex more comfortable, especially with aging

Stress relief

Good sex makes you happy and provides a welcome break from the daily stressors of life. 

Emotional intimacy

Having sex fosters feelings of closeness and trust with your partner. It strengthens your relationship out of the bedroom as well. 

Better sex

For men and women, having good sex leads to having more good sex.

Women who have orgasms more frequently are able to keep having them. Men who have sex at least once a week are less likely to develop erectile dysfunction than men who have sex less often.

Sexual health for older men

As men get older, they have a decline in testosterone and changes in sexual function. This doesn't mean you can't enjoy a healthy sex life into your 80s and beyond. You can adapt to your body's changes and still have a fulfilling sex life.

Some changes you may have as you age are: 

  • More stimulation needed to achieve an erection and orgasm
  • Less forceful ejaculations
  • Decreased semen production
  • Shorter orgasms
  • Longer time needed to have another erection

You may also have some health conditions that can interfere with your sex life. While sex may not be the same as it was when you were younger, you may find that you're more comfortable with yourself and your partner and enjoy sex even more.

Some steps you can take to maintain your sexual health include:  

  • Talk to your doctor about any health conditions you have and how they may affect your sex life.
  • Communicate openly with your partner about both of your needs, desires, and concerns.
  • Change your routine if needed. If you're too tired to have sex at night, try mornings instead. 
  • Be open to enjoying sex in different ways. There may be times you or your partner have different needs but you can still enjoy touching and intimacy. 

Sexual health for older women

After menopause, women have many physical changes related to a decrease in estrogen production. Women may have symptoms related to declining estrogen levels up to five years before menopause officially occurs. These changes may include:

  • Thinning vaginal walls that are drier, less elastic, and possibly inflamed
  • Vaginal burning and itching
  • Uncomfortable sex
  • Vaginal tears 
  • More frequent urinary tract infections

Sometimes these changes can make sex uncomfortable. One of the worst things you can do to keep up your sexual function is to quit having sex, however. Having sex more frequently promotes vaginal elasticity and lubrication. If you're finding sex uncomfortable or painful, here are some tips:  

  • Use an over-the-counter silicone-based vaginal lubricant before and during sex.
  • Over-the-counter vaginal moisturizers may help with symptoms of burning or dryness.
  • A low-dose prescription vaginal estrogen cream can help restore vaginal tissue and prevent urinary tract infections.

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Medically Reviewed on 9/9/2021
References
SOURCES:

The American Journal of Medicine: "Regular intercourse protects against erectile dysfunction: Tampere Aging Male Urologic Study."

Familydoctor.org: "Health Benefits of a Good Sex Life."

Mayo Clinic: "Senior sex: Tips for older men."

Rush University Medical Center: "Sex and the Older Woman: Tips to help you enjoy a healthy sex life well into your golden years."