Sexual Health and Ageing
Many people continue to have satisfying sexual relationships until well into old age. Unfortunately we live in a society where sex is seen as something only for young people and we are given the impression that your sex drive disappears after 50! Age certainly isn’t a barrier to a healthy sex life, in fact research shows that sexually active people who are happy with the type of sex they are having stay healthier. However as we get older, some of the changes that happen to our bodies can cause anxieties for men and women and hormonal changes can cause an increase or decrease in our sex drive.
As men age, impotence, known as erectile dysfunction, becomes more common. This means that a man’s ability to have and keep an erection is affected - he may take longer to get an erection and it may not be as firm or as big as it used to be. This is not a problem if it only happens now and then. However, if it is happening often seek advice from your doctor as there may be things that can help.
After the menopause a woman may notice changes in her vagina. Hormonal changes can cause the vagina to shorten and become narrower and she may have less lubrication which can make sex uncomfortable. If this happens lubrication is available from the pharmacist which may help, also taking things slowly to allow your body time to produce more natural lubricants. You may also benefit from talking to your doctor about this. Some illness, disabilities, medicines and surgery can also affect your ability to have and enjoy sex, for example joint pain from arthritis, impotence from unmanaged diabetes and many drugs such as those used for depression and high blood pressure. If you are concerned that these may be affecting your sex life, speak to your doctor.
It is becoming increasingly common for older people to have new sexual relationships later in life and sexually transmitted infections (STI) in older generations are on the increase. The same advice about safer sex applies to older people and it is important to practice this with a new partner. However, many older men find that condoms can affect their erection and are reluctant to use them. Women can also find condoms uncomfortable due to a lack of lubrication. If you find it difficult to use condoms it is a good idea for you and your new partner to have a sexual health screen or if you change partner frequently, to have a sexual health screen every 3 – 6 months. Make sure you get checked out if you have any symptoms although it is important to remember that people can have an STI but have no symptoms.
Your sexual health is an important aspect of your general health and wellbeing so if you have any problems it is a good idea to speak to someone sooner rather than later. Your GP or local sexual health services can help. All services are confidential and there probably isn’t anything a sexual health nurse or doctor hasn’t seen or heard before!