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Ageing and Sexual Health

Ageing and sexuality are two themes human society has surrounded with myths and stereo-types. Just because our bodies change doesn’t mean our appetite for sex and intimacy disappears. What does it mean to manage your sexuality later in life?

Ageing affects many aspects of our lives. Our bodies can’t regenerate as fast on the cellular level as they do when we are young. This can make it more challenging to enjoy certain activities, in-cluding sex. But with a few adjustments, ageing shouldn’t strip you of a satisfying and healthy sexual life.

Sexuality changes throughout life

Sexuality is integral to being human. Our relationship to sex develops over time and is influenced by our upbringing, environment, religion, social background, and our personal attempts to discover and embrace it.

Many people experience changing sexual needs over time. For most people, sexuality peaks in the ear-ly 20s and their relationship to it continues to change throughout their reproductive years. Unfortu-nately, when we pass a certain age threshold, our desire and capacity for sexuality begin to decrease.

Many factors influence libido and sexual activity, but ageing, worsening health conditions, hormonal changes, and the social stigma surrounding sexuality later in life are the major mood killers. Let’s take an up-close look at how sexuality changes for both men and women.


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How does sexuality change for men and women?

Although sexuality is individual, men and women tend to have different internal rhythms. Men’s sex-uality tends to peak in their 20s, while women keep improving throughout their 30s and even their 40s. In men, testosterone dictates sexual attraction and libido, but their testosterone levels gradually begin to decrease when they reach their 30s. Women peak a bit later, and we still can’t explain why libido increases when female fertility begins to plummet. Some experts believe it has to do with rela-tionship security and women better understanding their bodies and sexual needs slightly later in life.

After the age of 50, members of both sexes usually experience a decline in their interest in sexual ac-tivity. Testosterone in men continues to drop, which can lead to less frequent erections and a loss of interest in sex. Women in their later years can stop worrying about unwanted pregnancies, but oestro-gen levels decline, and menopause begins bringing a new set of challenges that can discourage a per-son from even thinking about sex.


During menopause, women experience hot flashes, anxiety, fatigue, irritability. Also, a drop in oestrogen levels means it can be more challenging to get aroused and lubricate naturally, mak-ing  sexual intercourse uncomfortable.

What affects sexuality the most?

Diseases linked to ageing. It’s no secret that when we age, our bodies lose the ability to regenerate quickly and become more sus-ceptible to injury and disease. Illnesses linked to ageing include cancer, diabetes, arthritis, chronic pain, and heart disease. Some of these conditions directly affect the hormones and libido, while others can make sex uncomfortable.

For instance, vascular disorders reduce the blood flow to the genital area, making it harder for both men and women to become aroused and achieve orgasm. The duration and firmness of erection might also be impaired.

Menopause. Some women feel more sexually aroused during menopause because they don’t fear unwanted preg-nancies anymore. But going through menopause is likely to affect sexual health. As oestrogen de-creases, the vaginal walls secrete less lubrication, and the skin tissue becomes tinner, causing discom-fort during intercourse. These changes are called vaginal atrophy. The changes our bodies go through as we age cause agitation and irritation, which affects our interest in sex.

Learn more about menopause.

Erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction can happen at any time in a man’s life. In fact, this often has less to do with age and more to do with mental and physiological well-being and with stress. However, later in life, erection problems tend to increase. Men with heart and cardiovascular issues might have greater difficulty maintaining an erection as blood circulation is impaired.

Mental health conditions. Without mental clarity, we can only do so much. Many people suffer from a worsening mental state in their later years. Conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease sometimes increase desire but also cause poor mental function and disorientation. If you don’t recognise your partner, you won’t want to engage in sex with that person.


Stereotypes. The cult of youth promotes only young people as sexual beings. Many people who could enjoy a healthy sex life in their later years feel crippled by cultural stereotypes. When we begin to disassociate ourselves from our sexuality, our desire also wanes.


You might be surprised to know that more than 50% of people in their 70s have sex regular-ly, and 25% of them enjoy sex at least once a week!

Why is it important to maintain a healthy sex life?

Healthy sex life has many benefits for our physiological and psychological health. Here are just a few examples of how being sexually active later in life can benefit you.

Learn more about the effects of not having sex.

Better health. Satisfying sex is lots of fun, but it is also good for your health. It keeps your blood flowing and re-leases happiness hormones called endorphins, which not only boost your mood but can also relieve pain. Sex also improves the immune system and stabilises the production of sex hormones as we age.

Better life satisfaction. Sexuality is significant when we are younger, and this doesn’t disappear the moment we notice our-selves begin to age. Having positive sexual experiences helps us to connect with our partners and our-selves. Deep connection and joyful activity play a vital role in life satisfaction. In fact, many studies have shown that life satisfaction is interconnected with sexual fulfilment. That means that when we succeed and enjoy life, we tend to have a greater desire for sex and vice versa.

Stronger relationships. While there is no magical number of times you should be having sex to build a long-lasting relation-ship, sex definitely helps. It creates a deeper connection and maintains intimacy between two people. Although it might be difficult to relate to your partner after many years spent together, it’s important to nurture intimacy as however, we can.

What can you do to improve your sexual health later in life?

Oestrogen therapy. Oestrogen therapy is a hormone treatment that supports oestrogen levels in a woman’s body as they decrease due to ageing. Oestrogen pills, skin patches, and gels help prevent bone loss, reduce hot flashes, and ease vaginal pain. This can help you feel “more like yourself” and make sex more com-fortable. However, side effects of oestrogen therapy include a higher risk of breast cancer, stroke, and heart attack. Before starting a new hormone regimen, you should assess the risks together with a doc-tor.

Find ways to make sex enjoyable. As we age, we tend to lose flexibility, but you can enjoy sex with your partner or alone in different ways. Sex doesn’t have to be only about penetration. Anything that helps you kindle that spark works. Kissing, cuddling, massaging, mutual masturbation, and other forms of physical intimacy contribute to connection.

Don’t forget the lubrication. Lubrication can be useful at any age to ease vaginal pain during intercourse. If you experience vaginal dryness, discomfort, and tearing, then using lubricant can help you enjoy sex more and even increase your appetite for sex.

Experiment with Kegel exercises. Both men and women can benefit from Kegel exercises at any age. Pelvic muscles become weaker with age, heavy lifting, and pregnancy. Training the pelvic muscles helps you maintain an enjoyable sex life, achieve stronger orgasms, and can reverse incontinence. All you need to do is correctly identi-fy the pelvic muscles and then contract them repeatedly for a set every day or several times a week. In the beginning, you might want to lie down and see how it goes. Once you know what you are doing, you can do Kegel exercises anywhere as it doesn’t require much movement. Women can also use spe-cial weights or devices to increase the challenge and make the activity more entertaining.

Intimacy and sexuality are essential to being human. Even though our bodies change as we age, that doesn’t mean we have to stop enjoying the connection. Even if you need to adjust to your changing body, nurturing your sexuality can improve your health, strengthen your relationship, and boost your mood.

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https://www.racgp.org.au/download/documents/AFP/2010/October/201010yee.pdf
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/10853211_How_Important_is_Sex_in_Later_Life_The_Views_of_Older_People
https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/sexuality-later-life
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2483873/
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