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Sexual health in the over 50’s

It doesn’t necessarily follow that our sexual desires diminish the older we get but if you are having difficulties and wish to continue to have an active sex life, there are ways to help you adapt.

First and foremost good physical and mental health is the best starting point to enable you to continue to be sexually active with your partner, alongside a positive attitude from both parties.

However, there are many other factors that can have an effect on sexual desire such as hormonal changes, side-effects of medical treatments, stress, psychological or emotional factors, changes in appearance and depression.  Issues such as these should be discussed with your doctor as they are trained to give support and advice on how to go forward.  If you are not comfortable discussing this issue with your family doctor then perhaps see if there is another in the practice that you would feel more comfortable talking to.

If you wish to continue to have sexual activities as an older adult with your partner, adaptive coping strategies may be needed to help you to achieve this.

Finding ways that will help as our bodies change

For women over 50

Following menopause, some women find sex more enjoyable as there is no longer the worry of falling pregnant.  However, many find that as their hormone levels drop vaginal tissue becomes thinner and so sex can become uncomfortable.

Lubricants can help enormously.  These can be purchased over the counter without prescription and many can be purchased online too.  But if your symptoms are severe then your GP may be able to prescribe oestrogen replacement or even HRT.

As oestrogen levels decrease, vaginal pH levels rise which increases the risk of a vaginal infection.

Ways to reduce the risk of vaginal infection:

  • Avoid using soap in the area
  • Instead use a cleanser with the same pH level as a healthy vagina – normal pH level is between 3.8 to 4.5
  • Try and pass urine after sex as this will help wash away bacteria and may even prevent a urinary tract infection occurring.

For men over 50

Many men still find sex rewarding and satisfying as they get older, even if they may not be able to perform as they used to in their younger years.

Some, however, will suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED) which is the failure to get and maintain an erection.  Statistically, at least half of men will be affected by ED to some degree between the ages or 40 to 70 years.

There are many factors why ED may occur as men get older:

  • Stress
  • Depression
  • a side effect to medication
  • physical cause – such as high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes
  • smoking
  • consuming excessive alcohol
  • obesity
  • inactive lifestyle

If you are experiencing ED then we advise a consultation with your GP as it can affect relationships as well as causing distress and depression.  Your GP will help to determine the cause and give treatment or advice.  Your GP will conduct a physical examination to check for any abnormalities and a rectal examination may also be done to assess for prostate.  Bloods may be taken so a fuller picture can be gained.

Treatment for erectile dysfunction

Firstly you will be provided with lifestyle advice around stopping smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, weight reduction and exercise as deemed appropriate by your GP.

Secondly, medications may be prescribed known as phosphodieterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors. These work by increasing the flow of blood to the penis.

Some types of medication prescribed by your GP could be:

  • Sildenafil – more commonly known as Viagra
  • Tadalafil – more commonly known as Cialis
  • Vardenafil – more commonly known as Levitra

Other less common treatments for ED include:

  • Surgical implants
  • Use of external devices such as vacuum pumps
  • Injections to promote the blood flow to the penis
  • Transurethral alprostadil

Ways for both men and women to enjoy sex

The slower the better

Foreplay is extremely effective in helping both parties to journey together to achieve arousal – building sexual desire may take longer as we age.

The key is to take your time with foreplay so you are both ready before moving on to having sexual intercourse, that way the experience will be heightened for both parties.

Different ways

If you have more energy in the morning then having sex earlier in the day might suit you better than at night.

You may also want to try out different positions.  This may be especially helpful if you suffer from back pain, arthritis or other conditions that make traditional positions more difficult.

So try experimenting to see what works best for you both.

It is worth noting that if you are changing partners it is best to use a condom to avoid contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI).  But watch out if you are using a lubricant which is oil based as it will break down the latex causing the condom to fail.

If you would like to find out more about the menopause, we have plenty of interesting articles for you to read in our Silversurfers Menopause section.

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