Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sex and Aging

It is a common belief that as you get older, you lose your sex drive and sexual intimacy is no longer an option. This is a myth and an extremely erroneous one at that. A person’s sex drive may experience some changes as a result of many factors, but it does not necessarily disappear. The factors that affect sex-drive are psychological and physiological in nature. As a rule of thumb, if you have a healthy sex drive when you’re young, you will continue to have a healthy drive well into your senior years; however, if you’re an ice box in your twenties, you can’t expect a dramatic change without a lot of work and motivation.

Sexual Changes with Age

The primary physiological changes that occur in both men and women are due to the change in hormone levels; testosterone levels in men and estrogen levels in women. The gradual decrease in these hormones causes a variety of changes in the physical ability to perform sexually; however, these changes can be overcome with time, patience and communication.

Physiological Changes in Men

For men, these physical changes occur over a period of time. As a man ages, there is a decrease in the amount of circulating testosterone; this stabilizes by about 60 years of age. As a result of this decrease in testosterone levels, it will take a man much longer to achieve a full erectile state. At a young age, a man is able to obtain an erection with visual and mental stimulation; however, as a man ages, he will need more direct manual stimulation in order to achieve the same affect.

There is also a decrease in the length of time a man is able to maintain an erection prior to ejaculation. This is due to a variety of other physical factors that affect blood flow - such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiac arrhythmias, to name a few. There is also a decrease in the force of ejaculation, due to a reduction in the sperm count. The refractory phase of sexual intercourse is also lengthened. It will take a man much longer to have the ability to have another orgasm, usually 12 to 24 hours. This time period increases as a man continues to age.

Another very important fact to remember is the following: If a man discontinues sexual activity in his fifties to sixties, he will have a much greater chance of having impotency problems, versus if he continues sexual activity whereby the chances of impotency are far less.

Physiological Changes in Women

In women, the physiological changes are not as great as for men; however, they can have very negative affects, causing many women to forego sexual activity.

As women age, menopause causes a decrease in estrogen production which lessens the chance of impregnation. This can have psychological effects on some women, which will be discussed further in the next section.

As a result of this decrease in estrogen production, there are some changes that will occur that have the potential for making sexual encounters painful. In general there is atrophy of the vaginal tissue; it loses its elasticity and the tissue begins to thin. There is a decrease in natural lubrication, which will necessitate the use of artificial lubricant. The size of clitoral, vulvar and labial tissue decreases, along with the size of the cervix, uterus and ovaries. However, the sensitivity of the clitoris remains the same as when a woman is younger.

The sexual tension felt prior to an orgasm decreases and the orgasmic contractions are less. These contractions can be painful for some women. The good news: if a woman was multi-orgasmic prior to menopause, she will continue to have the ability to be so.

Psychology Affects Sexual Drive

Many times, what truly affects the sex drive of any individual with age is not the physiological changes, but the psychological issues that arise. There may be a loss of interest due to religious beliefs that state that sexual intimacy is just a means of reproduction. Once a woman loses that ability, she may lose interest in sex as she will not be fulfilling her “religious (reproductive) purpose”.

Some people may experience guilt, especially those who are widowed. They may feel that have sexual encounters with someone other than the person who was their spouse is a form of betrayal. Others will experience guilt because they were brought up feeling that sex was not to be enjoyed. Sociological beliefs indicate that an elderly individual who continues to have a sex drive is “dirty” or un-natural, hence making it difficult for an elderly person to enjoy sex. Often with age, comes the loss of a partner and the inability to find a suitable partner with which a person can enjoy sexual intimacy. Women outnumber men, hence making it difficult for many elderly women to find a suitable partner.

Depression is also a major problem with sexual drive. A depressed person usually has no desire for sexual encounters, and unfortunately many of the medications given to treat depression decrease what little sex drive is left. These are only a few of the many psychological issues that might affect a person’s sex drive when he/she is older.

Conclusion

As you see, there are many factors that might interfere with a person’s drive as age progresses; however, there are many more ways in which an individual can combat these changes and keep a wonderful sex life. The first and foremost important way to fight back is education. It is never too late to learn and the most important thing to do is learn how your body is changing and what you can do about it. Educate yourself on any disease processes you may have and the medications that you are using the treat them. Many medications have side effects that will alter a person’s sex drive.

Another way to keep an enjoyable sex life is to experiment with toys, videos, books and magazines. Toys come in handy, especially now when you need more direct stimulation and time to become fully aroused. There are a variety of vibrators in all different sizes, shapes and colors, all types of add-ons, toys that performs different actions, edible lubricants, and massage oils. There are many different techniques that can be used; from massage and oral stimulation to karma sutra (for those who remain flexible enough and adventurous enough to try).

The psychological problems can be treated by a therapist, or simply with good communication with your partner. If a person is single and is unable to find a suitable partner, there are plenty of ways in which to pleasure one-self. The main point to remember is not to be afraid, take your time and communicate. With the right attitude and approach, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to enjoy an active sexual life well into your senior years!

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