When we think of aging and desire most people think it will dissipate and no longer be a factor in our romantic relationships. It is not uncommon for this to develop a sense of worry and/or fear. How will aging and desire change the dynamic of your relationship? Will aging and desire change the perception your partner may have of you? We are constantly told our sexual behavior while in our 20s is significantly different from our sexual behavior when we are in our 50s. The message is typically negative where sex and aging are concerned.
It is implied you will no longer have a sex life or feel desired by your partner because of physiological/biological changes to your body due to age. There are many other misconceptions about this change due to aging that reinforce feelings of doubt.
We have been misled because many adults in their 50s, 60s, and 70s, according to (Buehler, 2017), maintain an interest in sexual activity if the “sexual activity” is broadened to include nonpenetrative behaviors such as manual and oral sex, cuddling, kissing, and frottage (rubbing genitals against each other to produce an orgasm).
Aging and Desire Redefined
Your sexuality and sexual behavior are not as limited as you thought. We have to understand that we have been limited to what has been taught and displayed in media throughout the years. Images in that same media have also reinforced misconceptions about sexuality and aging. This reinforcement has added more confusing and contradictory beliefs hindering any encouragement to explore and find new ways to connect sexually with our partner as we age. As we age, people can have an active and satisfying sex life with and without penetrative sex.
Open communication is the key to building the foundation for what your evolving sex life can be due to changes you recognize in yourself and your partner(s). Older women and men can find a new desire to explore their sexuality, relearn their bodies and experience some of the best sex of their life when changes hit and if they are open and honest about their needs with their partner (Eseray, 2015).
As we age and become aware of the changes our bodies experience it helps to know that the lack of interest that develops from these changes is largely related to being psychological rather than biological.
Yes, biological change can have some effect on our sex drive, but the psychological effects are what typically take their toll on diminishing sexual desire. The biological change can decrease the drive however it just means finding new ways to increase it and enjoy an intimate connection with your partner. When it affects you psychologically it manifests into emotional distress such as anxiety, depression, and stress.
Exploring the various aspects of your sexuality as you age such as redefining what your sexual behaviors, wants, needs and functions are in order to maintain a healthy sex life. Learning, understanding, and normalizing many different phases of aging and the effects it has on sexual behaviors can be indicative of really exploring different ways to connect sexually because you are aware of the changes, educating yourself, and seeking support on what it means and what it looks like for your relationship.
According to (Buehler, 2017) older couples who remain sexually active (in a broader sense) enjoy better physical and mental health than peers who do not. Also, older couples have rated their relationship as more emotionally satisfying and report fewer problems with depression, anxiety, and stress. It’s not beneficial to you or your partner(s) to simply accept that you have reached the end of your sexual journey because of aging.
Aging and Desire Myths
- Older adults don’t have sex, they can’t have sex, or they shouldn’t have sex
- It’s disgusting. It’s not sexy (this prevents a lot of older adults from initiating sexual activity)
- Lack of desire is only seen or happens in older adults or is limited to women who have hit menopause and men who have ED
- There is nothing you can do about normal changes that affect sexual behavior or activity. (There is plenty you can do)
- STI’s is not an issue for older adults
- Sex is no longer a priority or important as you get older
- Calling an older couple cute is positive. (this can be desexualizing and result in harm to how older adults perceive themselves sexually)
- The aging body is not attractive (accept change don’t view change as limiting, appreciate the body for what it can still do and adjust to.)
- Older adults don’t masturbate (when some changes require strategic adjusting masturbating can be another sexual behavior to add and share with your partner or alone to experience pleasure.
- Older adults are too fragile for sex
- Experiencing impotence makes sexual intercourse impossible (while erection may become more challenging to obtain it doesn’t rule out the ability to have intercourse. There are medication options or other sexual activities that can bring you to orgasm or simply feel pleasure and enjoy your partner sexually)
Sexual Intimacy Benefits
- Improves physical and mental health
- Improves sleep
- Increases the lifespan
- Lowers risk of prostate cancer
- Minimizes incontinence
- Pain relief- sex causes the release of endorphins which is a natural pain reliever. (as we age some people may notice more aches and pain which intimacy can help with)
- Helps with blood pressure as sex can open and relax the blood vessel
- Helps live more fulfilling lives
- Sex increases testosterone
- Sex increases oxytocin “cuddle or love” hormone
- Increasing self-esteem-This is especially important because as we age things change and knowing that there is still desire in whichever way works makes you feel good about yourself and more embracing of aging and change.
- You feel happier and healthier
Regarding aging and desire, change is inevitable doesn’t matter in what capacity. Understanding your health status and capabilities as you age will assist you in redefining your sexually wants and needs. You can enjoy sex and intimacy for as long as you would like. Don’t let society’s myth dictate how to connect and grow in your relationship. You can learn to reconnect with your partner as you age. Aging, desire, and pleasure can coexist.
Buehler, D. S. (2017). What Every Mental Health professional Needs to Know About Sex. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.
Eseray, J. (2015, December 11). Tips for a healthy sex life in your golden years. Retrieved from courier-journal: www.courier-journal.com