Studies have shown that 70 percent of men and 35 percent of women continue to be sexually active over the age of 70. Sexual interest continues throughout life and seniors today need to know that they can still be intimate during their golden years.
Here are the truths behind the myths regarding seniority and sex.
Misconception: Lack of interest in being intimate.
Reality: Sexual interest continues throughout life. Society tends to have an ageist concept of intimacy, feeling sex among seniors is inappropriate or unnatural. There are enough men for women who are interested and many social outlets for seniors to meet others with whom they can become intimate. These include various organizations or clubs, church groups, dance functions, etc.
Misconception: Inability to perform.
Reality: Complications from aging, such as having to take more medications with side effects and chronic illness, may interfere with sexual function, but they do not eliminate it.
Misconception: Sexual dysfunction cannot be treated.
Reality: Erectile dysfunction is not always an inevitable consequence of aging, but it can often be a result of medications or anxiety. A person’s overall health may also be a concern, so be sure to discuss any issues you are having with your doctor. Medication to alleviate this condition is an option but only with doctor approval.
Misconception: Common illness or disabilities warrants stopping any sexual activity.
Reality: Intimacy is possible for those who may have some medical issues. Those with bone and joint limitations; limited cardiac and pulmonary reserve; and cognitive disorders can have sex, it just may take some patience and creativity. Common concerns include:
Heart disease: risk is low for another heart attack to occur while being intimate; in fact, an active sex life may decrease the risk of a future heart attack.
Diabetes: one of the few diseases that can cause impotence. Once diabetes is diagnosed and controlled, however, potency in most cases may be restored.
Stroke: rarely damages physical aspects of sexual function, and it is unlikely that sexual exertion will cause another stroke. Using different positions or medical devices that assist body functions can help make up for any weakness or paralysis that may have occurred.
Arthritis: can produce pain that limits sexual activity. Surgery and drugs can relieve these problems, but in some cases the medicines used can decrease sexual desire. Exercise, rest, warm baths, and changes in position and timing of sexual activity (such as avoiding evening and early-morning hours of pain) can be helpful.
Prostatectomy: rarely affects potency. Except for a lack of seminal fluid, sexual capacity and enjoyment after a prostatectomy should return to the pre-surgery level.
Misconception: Seniors cannot contract STDs.
Reality: Anyone who is not practicing safe sex is exposed to the risk of contracting a STD. According to Today’s Research on Aging, adults age 50 and older accounted for 10 percent of new HIV infections in the United States in 2006. In 2007, 34 percent of adults age 50 and older were living with AIDS. Find the safest method that works best for you.
** Remember, sexual activity is normal, healthy behavior. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions regarding sexual activity. There are many ways to be intimate without engaging in sexual intercourse. Intimacy can also be achieved through touching, holding hands, long walks, dancing and other forms of shared experiences. Communication between partners is most important.