Seniors and Good Sex: Tips for Staying Active in the Bedroom
By Luke Redd
| Last updated
Sex, even well into your senior years, can be a wonderful part of your life. For many older adults, lovemaking is an enjoyable adventure that offers a wide variety of life-enhancing benefits like improved self-esteem, better sleep, and greater overall well-being. Even well into old age, physical intimacy can boost a person's health and happiness.
That may be why most older adults between the ages of 65 and 80 see it as a necessity: According to the National Poll on Healthy Aging, 76 percent of them said that making love—at any age—is an important aspect of romantic relationships.
Here's what you should know about having sex after 60:
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1. Physical Changes and Challenges
It's normal and natural to experience physical changes as you get older. And seniors, in general, tend to have more health problems than younger people. Even so, it's possible to effectively manage (or even overcome) some of the physical issues that could be hindering your intimacy.
As Men Age:
As Women Age:
In addition, some women find it more difficult to become aroused after menopause or surgical procedures such as hysterectomies. It may take them longer to feel excited. Their orgasms may become less intense. Or they may lose interest in sex altogether, at least temporarily. Plus, many women over 60 experience other kinds of physical problems—such as mild urinary incontinence—that cause them extra anxiety during times of intimacy.
Other Health Conditions
Some of the most common medical issues that can affect a person's sexual well-being include:
That's why it's essential to tell your doctor about any problems you're having with physical intimacy. Even if you aren't experiencing any other symptoms, a decrease in sexual interest or function may be an early sign of a medical problem. (For instance, erectile dysfunction is sometimes an early symptom of heart disease.)
Also, if you are recovering from surgery or illness, be sure to listen to your doctor's advice about when you can safely start making love again.
Some antidepressants, antihistamines, acid-blocking meds, and blood pressure drugs can impair a person's libido or sexual function. So it's a good idea to inform your doctor of any issues you may be having in the bedroom. He or she might be able to prescribe something different for you.
Of course, you also may be a candidate for certain medications that are frequently prescribed for intimacy problems. For example, men with erectile dysfunction are often prescribed drugs like Viagra and Cialis. And women with vaginal dryness are sometimes prescribed special gels, creams, or patches as part of hormone replacement therapy.
No matter what, you should always talk to your doctor before taking any over-the-counter supplements or medications, even if they are marketed as "natural."
Regular physical activity can increase your overall energy level, self-confidence, and blood circulation. Plus, it's good for your heart. And anything that's good for your heart also tends to be good for your sexual health.
A heart-healthy diet is often prescribed for men and women who experience dysfunction during erotic activities. In particular, many dietitians recommend foods that are low in saturated fat, sodium, and sugar but high in fiber, essential vitamins and minerals, and healthy, unsaturated fats. So eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and nuts can be especially beneficial. In addition, it's wise to limit your alcohol consumption to no more than about one drink per day.
Frequency of Lovemaking
Seeking erotic pleasure more frequently can lead to a stronger libido and better sexual health overall. That's why it can be beneficial to make love even when you aren't in the mood. Every time you engage in intimate activity, you are training your body to respond better to the stimulation. And you don't need to have a partner each time. Solo masturbation can be just as effective.
2. Mental and Emotional Barriers
Sexual problems are often caused or made worse by psychological obstacles. Like many seniors, you may consciously or subconsciously grapple with issues like:
Depression can also be a major barrier. For older adults with this condition, sexual desire, arousal, and pleasure can be very elusive.
Like other medical conditions, depression can be treated. In addition to medication, talk therapy can sometimes help seniors who have depression that interferes with their ability to be physically intimate.
Seeing a professional mental health counselor or therapist can also help you deal with various other obstacles.
Mainstream sex therapy is another option. It doesn't involve any physical contact. It's a specialized form of psychotherapy that can help people overcome, cope with, or adapt to challenges or limitations related to erotic intimacy, including functional issues like erectile dysfunction or vaginal pain. Adults of all ages can benefit from individual or couple's therapy, including seniors and the elderly.
Ask for a referral from your doctor or locate a therapist near you through the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) or the Society for Sex Therapy & Research (SSTAR).
3. Removing Expectations
Making orgasms the driving focus of erotic activity can sometimes backfire. That's why it's often better to focus on exploring all kinds of pleasure rather than trying to achieve one type of outcome. Paradoxically, when people let go of their expectations, they're more likely to experience orgasms and other pleasurable highs.
4. Communicating With Your Partner
Open communication is essential for maintaining good relationships. Lack of honest communication is often one of the biggest causes of a breakup or no-sex marriage. Yet, according to the National Poll on Healthy Aging, only 36 percent of seniors between the ages of 65 and 80 would discuss a sexual problem they were having with a spouse or partner.
Before you can experience a satisfying sexual relationship with each other, you and your partner need to share your most intimate feelings. Talk honestly about things like:
Make sure your communication is a two-way street by listening to your partner without judgment or interruption. And remember that you can be playful about communicating. A little humor can make the whole process more comfortable, enjoyable, and reassuring.
5. Changing Your Routine
Particularly for older couples, lovemaking can become boring and predictable. But it doesn't have to stay that way. A whole new world of excitement can be discovered by purposefully breaking up your routine. Even something as simple as choosing a totally new time of day (for example: you may have more energy for sex in the morning or afternoon vs. the evening). Here are some other things to try:
- New sexual positions
- Different rooms or locations
- Various kinds of outercourse (i.e., physical intimacy without penetration)
- Dates that involve one partner giving pleasure without the other one reciprocating (reversing roles for the next date)
- Fantasy role-playing
Anytime you try something new, be sure to follow up with each other and share your feelings about it. What did you like best? Would you try it again? Did you learn anything about yourself or your partner? What else do you want to try?
6. Setting the Mood
As we get older, many of us experience slower arousal. It may take longer for our desire to ignite during romantic activities. That's why a lot of sexually active seniors make it a habit to do things with their partners that set the mood—like flirting, kissing, or giving each other massages—well in advance of getting naked.
7. Using Protection
Physical intimacy can be risky, regardless of your age. Even for the elderly, it comes with the possibility of sexually transmitted infections (STIs—previously referred to as STDs). In fact, according to athenahealth, among older Americans, infection rates continue to climb for diseases like syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. Other common STIs include HIV, herpes, HPV, and trichomoniasis. As you age, it becomes harder for your body to fight such infections.
An infected person can pass his or her STI on to you through blood or other bodily fluids such as semen or vaginal fluid. And because infected people don't always have symptoms (and may not be aware of their infections), you can't know for sure whether they are healthy or not just based on their word or appearance.
So it's crucial to practice safe sex, especially if you are not in a monogamous relationship with someone you completely trust. No method of protection is 100-percent effective. However, you can greatly reduce your risk of contracting an STI by taking steps such as:
- Using a new, unexpired condom for vaginal or anal penetration
- Using a condom or dental dam for oral sex
Before making love with a new partner, always make sure that each of you has been tested for STIs. Be honest with each other. (If you are infected, keeping that information a secret is both unethical and dangerous to your partner.) And if either one of you has multiple partners, be sure to get tested on a regular basis. Having multiple partners greatly increases the risk of contracting or passing on an infection.
Whenever you see your doctor, be open about your activities so that he or she can appropriately assess your risk and screen you for STIs if necessary. Many infections can be successfully treated.
8. Personal Lubrication
For older women with vaginal dryness, lubrication can be especially vital. Regardless of whether you're having sex with a partner or masturbating solo, using lube is a simple way to make the whole experience much more comfortable and pleasurable.
It's crucial to choose the right type of lube for the activity you engage in. (You may need to buy multiple kinds since they each have different uses and limitations.) Everyday Health provides a great breakdown of the different types of lube here.
9. Sex Toys
A good toy can do wonders for your ability to reach maximum pleasure—with or without a partner. Seniors often do best with devices that are soft, lightweight, and ergonomic. Here are a few examples of sex toys that have been recommended as good options for seniors:
10. Going Beyond Intercourse
You don't have to engage in any kind of penetration in order to have a satisfying erotic life. Outercourse (i.e., sex without penetration) can be incredibly enjoyable. And you can still experience orgasms (maybe even better ones).
For a lot of seniors, outercourse eliminates major anxieties. For example, women don't have to worry about vaginal dryness or pain. And men don't have to worry about erectile dysfunction. Even with a flaccid penis, it's possible for a man to reach climax with the right stimulation.
11. Sexual Positions
When you want to engage in intercourse but find it hard on your body, it's time to change things up a little. Using new positions often becomes especially important for seniors who want to have sex over 70 years of age. That's because back and knee problems are particularly common among seniors and the elderly. But regardless of your age, a new position can make intercourse easier and more comfortable.
Some of the best sex positions for seniors are those in which your weight is evenly distributed over your joints or the strain on your back is alleviated. But every couple is different, so you and your partner may need to try various positions before hitting on one or two that work well for both of you. Here are three of the most commonly recommended positions for older adults:
12. Books and Other Resources
The following books are specifically about sex for seniors:
- A Frenchwoman's Guide to Sex After Sixty by Marie de Hennezel
- All Night Long: How to Make Love to a Man Over 50 by Barbara Keesling
- Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex by Joan Price
- The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50: How to Maintain—or Regain—a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life by Joan Price
- The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability: For All of Us Who Live with Disabilities, Chronic Pain, and Illness by Miriam Kaufman, Cory Silverberg, and Fran Odette
In addition, it's worth exploring various online resources. One of the most compelling websites is OMGYES. With a one-time payment, you get permanent access to a large range of tasteful videos that can teach you practical techniques for female pleasure (including talking openly about your body and communicating your needs). The website features some older women and is designed to empower both men and women of every age.
There’s No Age Limit on Good Sex
By learning more about your body and enlisting the help of your doctor, therapist, and romantic partner, good sex is achievable at any age.