The Science of Sexuality and Aging: I’ll Have What They’re Having

The science of sex and aging. Many people think that sex inevitably stops when you get older. Some believe menopause signals the end of a woman’s sexual life. Some think loss of erections means no more sex for men. A look at the science of sex and aging reminds us the truth is far different from those antiquated beliefs. The University of Michigan and AARP’s latest report shows that 61% of those 65-80 years old say that sex matters to their quality of life and 73% report being sexually satisfied. If you want to have what they’re having, read on.

seniors sexualitySex is good for your health. Some view older adult sexuality as having a negative effect on their health yet research has shown that regular sexual expression can prevent heart disease and complications from heart disease and cancer, two of the leading causes of death. Sex can help to reduce the risks of breast cancer for women and prostate cancer for men. Laboratory studies demonstrated that sexual stimulation can alleviate chronic pain and that stimulation resulting in orgasm produces the greatest increase in pain relief. Research indicates that sexual arousal and orgasm increase levels of endorphins and other hormones that can raise thresholds to pain which ease the discomforts of many chronic pain disorders. Sex can improve the overall quality of life and a wide variety of other health benefits. 

Aging is not for the faint of heart. Continued sexual activity depends on a few important items: a positive attitude towards sex in later life, good health, and access to a partner. If you were used to having penetrative sex but no longer feel able to, you are not alone. When penetration becomes too painful for women, it’s often due to a lack of estrogen which means the vaginal lining becomes thinner and less lubricated. When men have trouble in this arena, it’s often because their penises take longer to become erect, don’t get erect at all, or become erect at a whole new angle. Erection dissatisfaction symptoms can be caused by physical health concerns like heart disease, clogged blood vessels, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity along with emotional stress.

Don’t give up on pleasure. After all those years of trying not to get yourself or someone else pregnant, after all those years of trying to fit sex in and around the needs of everyone else in your house, after all those years of feeling uncomfortable taking time for yourself, older adults can take your later years to have sex purely for the sake of having more pleasure. Whether you are in a couple or not, there are many ways to adapt to almost any medical condition and still have sexual pleasure.

seniors sexuality

What if I don’t have a partner. Don’t let that stop you from experiencing pleasure. With all this talk about sex, don’t forget it’s not just about having a partner. There is no need to feel shame or embarrassment if you want to indulge in self pleasuring.

There is no expiration date on sex. If your interest has been sparked and you have questions about this topic or you’re interested in more information on other topics related to sex and aging, it’s not too late to ask. Please write to Dr. Fleishman at jane@janefleishman.com. All emails are confidential and she will answer your question directly.

About the Author:

Jane Fleishman

Dr. Fleishman holds a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality from Widener University Center for Human Sexuality Studies and is an expert on sexuality and older adults. You can reach her at www.janefleishman.com. She hosts a regular podcast on topics related to sex in the second half of life at www.ourbetterhalf.net.