• Eric and Linda Haggard

Sexual health is important at any age. And the desire for intimacy is timeless...

Sexual Health is Important at Any Age

Sexual health is important at any age. And the desire for intimacy is timeless. It can be a powerful emotional experience and a great tool for protecting and improving health, and it’s certainly not only for the young. The need for intimacy is ageless. Studies confirm that no matter what your gender, you can enjoy sex for as long as you wish. Naturally, sex at 70 or 80 may not be like it is at 20 or 30—but in some ways it can be better.

As an older adult, you may feel wiser than you were in your earlier years, and know what works best for you when it comes to your sex life. Older people often have a great deal more self-confidence and self-awareness, and feel released from the unrealistic ideals of youth and prejudices of others. And with children grown and work less demanding, couples are better able to relax and enjoy one another without the old distractions.

Sex has the power to:

• Improve mental and physical health. Sex can burn fat, cause the brain to release endorphins, and drastically reduce anxiety.

• Increase lifespan. Through its health-improving benefits, a good sex life can add years to your life.

• Solidify relationships. Sex is a chance to express the closeness of your deepest relationship.

• Give refuge. Sex gives you a chance to escape from the sometimes harsh realities of the world.

To maintain a satisfying sex life, talk with your partner. Set aside time to be sensual and sexual together. When you're spending intimate time with your partner, share your thoughts about lovemaking. Help your partner understand what you want from him or her. Be honest about what you're experiencing physically and emotionally.

As you age, it’s normal for you and your partner to have different sexual abilities and needs. Find new ways to enjoy sexual contact and intimacy. You may have intercourse less often than you used to, but the closeness and love you feel will remain.

It’s not just about intercourse. Sex can also be about emotional pleasure, sensory pleasure, and relationship pleasure. Intercourse is only one way to have fulfilling sex. Touching, kissing, and other intimate sexual contact can be just as rewarding for both you and your partner.

Any condition that affects your general health and well-being may also affect your sexual health. Illnesses that involve the cardiovascular system — such as high blood pressure, diabetes, hormonal problems, depression or anxiety — can pose challenges to being sexually active. The medications used to treat these conditions also can inhibit your sexual response. Certain high blood pressure medications, for instance, can affect your ability to become aroused. Other medications can make it more difficult to have an orgasm.

Testosterone plays an important role in a man's sexual experience. Testosterone levels vary greatly among men. In general, however, older men tend to have lower testosterone levels than do younger men. Testosterone levels gradually decline throughout adulthood — about 1 percent each year after age 30 on average.

As a man ages, the penis may take longer to become erect, and erections may not be as firm. It may take longer to achieve full arousal and to have orgasmic and ejaculatory experiences. Erectile dysfunction also becomes more common.

As women approach menopause, their estrogen levels decrease, which may lead to vaginal dryness and slower sexual arousal. Emotional changes can increase feelings of stress, which also can change your interest in sex.

Bringing the hormone levels back into a normal range can be very helpful to improve libido, improve erectile function and improve vaginal function in women. This should be discussed with your healthcare provider.

Other tools are available, such as GAINSWave for men and ReVive for Women, to improve circulation in these areas. GAINSWave improves erectile function and improves prostate health. ReVive for Women helps restore vaginal contractility, strengthening the pelvic floor muscles.

Sexuality necessarily takes on a broader definition as we age. Try to open up to the idea that sex can mean many things, and that closeness with a partner can be expressed in many ways.

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