An older couple holding hands can be a rare sight to see, but when you do it tends to warm your heart. It is easy to assume that they have been happily married for years, triumphantly overcoming the rising divorce rate. You admire them from afar and imagine them sharing their golden years together, but it can challenge social stereotypes to think of them just starting their relationship, and can challenge our perspectives even more by thinking about them being intimate with one another.
Unfortunately, there are major misconceptions that people become less and less interested in sexuality as they age. The reality is that many older adults across America are still very interested in intimacy and find much pleasure from these experiences. There is becoming a much higher need for sexuality education among older adults in nursing homes and other assisted living communities across the country. The fact is that intimacy contributes to both physical and psychological health, and can be a benefit to any relationship…no matter how old you are.
Growing older doesn’t mean that you stop desiring intimacy, and it definitely doesn’t mean that you no longer gain pleasure from it. As people age, though, there are some physiological changes that take place, which can make sexual intimacy more of a challenge. Identifying those challenges and gaining an understanding of them is the first step to finding ways to cope with them. The potential changes that could occur to both men and women in later life include:
- Decrease in vaginal lubrication
- Rapid decrease in arousal after orgasm
- Loss of elasticity in the vaginal tissues
- Changes to the shape, size and color of the vulva and vagina
- Thinning of the vaginal tissues
- Changes in erection: slower, less full, may not last as long, disappears quickly after orgasm, longer time between erections
- Less sperm volume
- Loss of ability to detect ejaculation
Despite the list of physiological changes that occur with age, studies have shown that sexual satisfaction increases, rather than decreases, as people grow older. There can be different reasons for this that can relate to the changes listed above. For instance, after menopause a woman can enjoy sexual activity without worrying about pregnancy. Couples can explain to each other the changes they are experiencing and work together to determine ways to cope with these changes.
During later adulthood it is also important for a couple to try new things in order to overcome the challenges that may occur; if you are in a relationship, this can create a new spark. If you are single, you can take the opportunity to explore your own sexuality in a safe way and learn ways to experience pleasure independently.
There are several things that you can do in order to continue enjoying your intimate life during later life. First and foremost, it is important to understand that intimacy has a very broad definition that encompasses much more than just “sex”. Holding hands, cuddling, or talking can help you and your partner to maintain intimacy even if you are unable or do not want to be sexual. Communicate with your partner. This can help the two of you understand each other’s thoughts and feelings about sexuality, intimacy, and aging. This is also a great way to discuss any physiological changes you may be experiencing and discover ways to work through those together. Try to find ways to overcome some of those physiological or psychological issues that you both can agree upon.
As you grow older, the changes that may take place can take time to which you need to adjust. You may feel as though these changes aren’t “normal,” but try to keep in mind that the definition of “normal” is subjective. What you may be used to doing as a couple or how your body once responded to arousal may change with age; this is normal. Normal is defined with each person and each relationship. As people change it is natural for sexuality to change as well.
If you are experiencing a decreased libido or a difficult time reaching orgasm than before, you can experiment with an arousal cream. There are several options available to women that include Ex-T-Cee, Nympho Niagra and X-Scream. Arousal creams can help to increase blood flow to the genitals, making them much more sensitive to touch. This may help to increase arousal, possibly making it easier to achieve an orgasm. For men experiencing erectile dysfunction, using an arousal cream can help increase sensitivity, enabling him to get and maintain an erection.
Another product that can help with the challenge of erectile dysfunction is a c-ring. One of the best c-rings to use for men experiencing ED is the Jelly Tool Belt. This c-ring will give the shaft of the penis a nice firm grip, keeping the blood flow in the penis, which may help maintain an erection for a longer period of time. (It is important to note that using a c-ring for longer than 30 minutes is not recommended.) This wonderful couples toy has a vibrating clitoral stimulator on it as well, which can provide extra stimulation to the female and may help some women reach orgasm.
As women age, the vagina will change in both shape and size. The tissue of the vagina becomes thinner and the production of lubrication decreases. All of these changes can make penetration uncomfortable, or even painful. Using a lubricant becomes vital as women age for these very reasons. I suggest using a water-based lubricant such as Pure Romance’s Just Like Me or Sweet Seduction. Both of these lubricants are gentle and non-irritating, making them safe for most women. A water-based lubricant can help replenish lost moisture, helping to make penetration more comfortable. For those women who find that using a water-based lubricant is not enough, Pure Romance’s Fresh Start is a vaginal moisturizer that can help restore the elasticity of the vaginal tissue that is often lost as we age. It should not be used in place of a lubricant, but it can enhance the functionality of a water-based lubricant. Fresh Start is estrogen-free and very gentle, making it safe for even the most sensitive women.
Intimacy can be an important part of many people’s quality of life, and the desire for it doesn’t always dissipate with age. For those of you who are experiencing the physiological changes that may occur with age and are interested in more information regarding this topic, please email me at Ask Patty on the Pure Romance website, www.pureromance.com.