Having turned 84 years old this month and having been a psychotherapist for more than 46 years, I feel I have something to say about the topic of sex to all you senior citizens.
Just like you can’t do what you did when you were in your youth, early adulthood and middle age, sex is not what it was or will be after 70. That is the truth, but don’t despair! There is much you can do between the sheets that can be very satisfying if you have an open mind and a willful disposition. It’s easy to say you have a headache, or you’re tired or it hurts. It takes patience, effort and desire to find ways to satisfy your loved one and receive a quality of sexual encounters that can still turn you on and make you and your partner feel fulfilled. It’s all in the attitude of each partner.
Women begin to lose their sex drive on or about the time they enter menopause. This lost libido differs in time for each woman as it did when they first began menstruation. It is not uncommon for their sex drive to wane after birth as well. But that decline is normal and will only be temporary. As women age, estrogen, the hormone that ignites the sex drive diminishes, while in men, they too lose their ability to sustain an erection caused by the decline of testosterone. In addition, men somewhere around 65 years of age, tend to develop prostrate issues that also inhibit and interfere with their sexual prowess. What was once an automatic erection is now needing more attention. In addition, the semen that was once plentiful, also lessens as time moves on. The orgasm that shot out semen that hit the ceiling when masturbating when you guys were teenagers and young adults, has morphed into a trickle. The truth is, women don’t really mind when they are senior citizens. They actually prefer it.
So along comes Viagra and other assorted enhancers for the male species. But what about women? They don’t have safe FDA approved drugs to compliment their counterpart after menopause. Flibanserin (Addyi) has approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat low sexual desire but does not have approval specifically for females after menopause. So, what can we do to enhance our sexuality as we age?
Here are five ways to maintain your sexual behavior once you get on Medicare.
1. First, it’s important to understand that sex has always been between the ears; not the legs. So, to get back to the future with these inhibitors, it takes creativity as we lose what nature once gave us to make babies. That not exactly a bad thing.
The joy of sex is dependent on the quality of the relationship; period! Good sex is only as good as the relationship. If the couple can be open, honest and take ownership for their shortcomings, mistakes and unwarranted behaviors, their sex life will reflect the quality of the relationship. If the relational space between the partners has been polluted over time, sex will suffer the consequences of the contaminated space and will not be good. Just as a home, car, kids, pets and plants need attention so does the relationship. If the relationship has been neglected for whatever the reason, sex will suffer. You can’t expect your partner to be loving if there is no loving feeling in the relationship. If anger clouds the relationship, sex is compromised. Nobody wants to be loving if they were hurt by their partner. Anger arises after hurt as a secondary feeling. Couples therapy can assist in helping couples create and maintain a healthy, mature relationship.
2. Both men and women need medical intervention to help alleviate the sexual disorder that comes with aging. Women experience dryness and atrophy as they age. Where there was once natural lubrication making it pleasurable when their partner penetrated, it now becomes painful. Vaginal atrophy (atrophic vaginitis) is thinning, drying and inflammation of the vaginal walls that may occur when your body has less estrogen. Vaginal atrophy occurs most often after menopause. For many women, vaginal atrophy not only makes intercourse painful but also leads to distressing urinary symptoms. The good news is that doctors have medicines that can restore the lubrication and procedures to restore the atrophy that has replaced pleasure with pain during sexual intercourse.
It is very important that women during and after menopause, seek medical attention from either their gynecologist or urogynecologist to alleviate these distressful symptoms. Men have similar issues as they age too. The decline of testosterone, coupled with an enlarged prostate, are major causes of erectile dysfunction. In the United States alone, as many as 30 million men have some form of erectile dysfunction including men under the age of 50. About one man in nine will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime, but only one in 39 will die of this disease. About 80% of men who reach age 80 have cancer cells in their prostate. Jul 12, 2023 Web MD.
As men age, their libido ages along with them. It takes sexual enhancers like Viagra and more to maintain an erection and achieve an orgasm. There are more pills for men to supplement sexual satisfaction than there are aspirins. Just look on line and you will see a plethora of supplements to choose from. It is just as important for men to see a urologist as it is for women to see a gynecologist or uro-gynecologist in order to overcome the loss of libido and achieve sexual satisfaction. Each partner in the relationship needs to work together and take responsibility for themselves to achieve an optimum outcome.
3. Effective communication is essential to support sexual dysfunction. Unfortunately, couples tend to hide their feelings not to disappoint their partner, so instead, excuses are made instead of dealing with the issues. Shame, guilt and insecurities stand in the way of working through sexual problems. Unless couples talk about their feelings, there will never be resolution. Avoiding the issue, claiming a headache or exhaustion is not the answer. Sweeping the issue under the rug by evading discussion, will create a rug that looks like the Swiss Alps. If couples find it difficult to confront the issue, choosing couples counseling is great tool to help them learn how to communicate effectively. Once they share their feelings and support each other through what they deemed a crisis, resolution is on its way.
4. Listening and the art of being present is your best friend in communication. Most couples don’t know how to talk to one another. They either are in your face, shouting, judging, criticizing or stonewalling while the other may withdraw and slip away into silence. Being present means looking into the eyes of each other while communicating. Many couples have not looked into the eyes of each other since they said their vows. Being respectful and having an open heart to really understand what their partner is saying without interrupting is being present and learning the landscape of the other as well as their language. Until this is accomplished sex will mirror how the couple communicates. The man too often will not be sensitive to the women’s needs and the women will just pray it doesn’t take too long and silently say,” just get it over with!”
5. Fantasies and paraphernalia can enhance sexuality. If you recall when you were young and used masturbation as a resource for sexual satisfaction, you may have used a fantasy to help you achieve an orgasm. Sexual fantasies are a wonderful stimulus to be satisfied. You can keep it to yourself when having sex with your partner, or choose to share it with him/her. It can make it even more exciting. Remember, sex is between the ears; not the legs.
Using sex toys can be another resource for sexual gratification. You can choose one on line or go together to an adult store and see the multitude of choices available. The act of going together for the purpose of sexual stimulation can be a turn on for both you and your partner. It needs to be something both partners are comfortable doing. Forcing your partner to do something that feels offensive is not going to be helpful.
If both are willing to explore the use of toys, it can be playful, sexy and demonstrates that you are both making a noble effort to please each other. Watching a sexy movie, (not necessarily porn) can also be a turn on. Elderly folks can be turned off by porn so be sensitive to your partner’s feelings. Some senior citizens enjoy a CBD gummy or vaping as another stimulant for sexual behavior. It can be surprisingly effective.
Exploring new ways to have sex is another enhancement to sexual pleasure. Check out books with pictures that show different positions that you may want to try. As we age, we feel awkward about doing what may seem kinky or foolish as senior citizens, but don’t let that preconceived notion turn you off. Sex and humor are a terrific combo for a happy relationship. Laughter, even in the middle of intercourse can be beneficial to both parties.
In addition, illness is part of aging as well as loss of libido. As we age, both physical and mental illness that were not even a thought when we were young slip into our lives without warning that cause us to put sex at the back of the line. Medications, treatments and pain become more prominent and disconcerting than our diminishing sex drive. There might be times that sex has no place in our aging lives. This is a reality we must face and need to accept. Understanding these limitations may not be pleasant, but they need to be addressed if we care about our partners. We don’t know what our future holds for us. Illness can strike either of us, so being sensitive and supportive to our partner is all we need to feel loved.
To close, let me say this last thing. Sometimes just cuddling, kissing and loving on each other can be very satisfying and act as a replacement for sexual intercourse. Giving each other a back massage can be more sensual and pleasurable than having sexual intercourse when age interferes and inhibits intercourse. Recently, I had a patient who had just turned 80 and told me she had the best sex the night before she came to see me.
“Really?”, I responded. What was so great about it?”, I asked.
We held hands, snuggled, smooched and told each other how grateful we are to have each other, and the best part was that I didn’t have to douche, shave or take another shower!”