Sex and Aging

I remember watching a show with my roommates when I was in college. In the show, the main character had parents who were dealing with illness and aging. There was a scene where the main character awkwardly asked her mom if things were alright between her and her dad. The mom replied, “Oh don’t worry about our sex life honey. We’ve got it covered in that department”. 

I was shocked. Although it now seems so obvious sex is part of older relationships, I had never thought about it until that moment. I felt embarrassed and immediately had a million questions come to mind. And I’m not the only one with questions. We’ve had many of our readers and followers ask about their sex life and the changes that happen as a part of aging.  Luckily, we had Natalie Wilton on our podcast this week to answer our questions.

Sex does change as we get older. Our bodies, hormones, and lives all change drastically from our 20s to our 70s. However, sex does have to stop! In fact, many people find sex more satisfying, fulfilling, and intimate later in life. Let’s talk about how to better enjoy sex as your body is getting older. 

Why don’t we talk about older sex?

When it comes to sex, most media outlets have a pretty unanimous message. Sex is for the young, active, and attractive. Sex between older adults is very rarely talked about. In fact, the media doesn’t seem to know how to treat aging in general. Most movies and tv shows depict three ages; kid, young adult, and old. And sex between the “olds” in shows is very much stigmatized. There is little room in Hollywood for older adults who still very much enjoy sexual pleasure. But that is not the case in the real world! Sex is for adults of all ages. Additionally, some parts of your sex life will even get better with age.

What’s great about second half sex?

What about aging can make sex better? Although the media centers on young people having sex, there are actually a lot of pros to aging in our sexual relationships. In fact, some of the biggest obstacles to sex when we are young disappear with age. 

  • Less fear of getting pregnant: As women age the chance of getting pregnant vastly decreases. And once they hit menopause, that chance goes down to zero. This means that as you get older, sex can become less stressful! You can enjoy each other at any time without the fear of an unexpected pregnancy complicating your life. 
  • Less busy: As you age, your workload typically decreases. There is less worry about building a career, and often people reach a point they can just coast to retirement. You have your habits down, kids need less attention, and you often have more money available to make your life convenient. 
  • Kids move out: speaking of being less busy, another benefit of aging is that typically your children need less and less of your time. And having the house to yourself opens up a world of possibilities of different times and places to explore each other. 
  • Confidence: Typically, older individuals have learned a few things in their time. Older people can have greater confidence in their self-worth, the strength of their relationship, communication, and other vital aspects of a healthy sexual relationship. 
  • Resources: Typically, couples have more resources as they age. Most of us have more money in our 30’s than our 20’s, and more in our 40’s than our 30’s, etc. It is easier to find the time, money, and other resources to invest in your sexual relationship! Older adults are more able to afford retreats, sex toys, and all other kinds of fun stuff to aid their sexual intimacy. 

Some New Challenges

Hopefully you are now convinced that sex can just keep getting better with age! However, I don’t want to gloss over the unique challenges that aging brings to our sexual relationships. As we age, our bodies change.

General Concerns 

In general, our health declines as we reach our twilight years. Being more tired, achey, or in general pain can lower our comfort in sex or even our desire to have sex. Certain medications can also decrease libido and affect our sexual systems (hormones, gentiles etc.). 

Typically as we age, our sexual systems also become less effective. For women, they may find their vaginal walls can shrink or get drier. Hormone cycles can change drastically. For men, blood flow changes can make it hard to get and keep an erection. For everyone, what is stimulating to you may change (for example: a woman who used to be able to orgasm from nipple stimulation alone may find she now can only orgasm with direct clirotal stimulations). In summary, basically all the effects of aging can factor into changes in our sexual desire and relationships. 

Emotional Shifts

The physical factors can lead to emotional shifts in your relationship. Age changes our bodies. In a society where beauty is too often equated to youth, some people feel insecure about those natural changes. In addition, some people feel embarrassed that they can’t get an erection or orgasm like they used to. These feelings of shame and embarrassment make us feel like we have to hide from sex, often creating a cycle where our spouse worries and develops insecurities about why their partner all of the sudden doesn’t want sex.  

On top of all this, as we age it can become necessary to become a caregiver for our spouse. When our spouse loses physical and/or mental capacity, we lovingly take over their care. At the same time, we can feel sexual bereavement and loss. Where once we had a partner who met us halfway sexually, we are now left either calling the shots or simply without a spouse who can fulfill our needs. In these situations, carefully consider consent and if your spouse can still choose to be sexually intimate. 

Tips for Overcoming Challenges

Aging sex can be really great, but it comes with its own unique challenges. Here are ways to help you overcome those challenges and make your twilight years your best sex yet. 

Redefine Sex

The best tip we can offer is to redefine sex. In our youth, we often equate sex with penetration and ejaculation. Although this does count as sex, it does not encompass all sex can be. Change your idea of sex to include anything that is passionate, intimate, and shared between you and your spouse. When challenges arise, remember that the key ingredients to sex are time, connection, and intimacy. As long as you can still do all three, you can have fantastic sex. 

Willingness to Change 

With time, we change. Our likes change, our abilities change, and our responses change. Because of this, the same old things may not be as satisfying as they once were. This presents a wonderful opportunity for our sex life to evolve! Develop a willingness to try new things. At the same time, seek to be open to your spouse’s responses. Don’t get offended if they ask you to do things differently. It does not mean they no longer find you appealing, merely that their body is changing and they need different things now. 

Own Your Responsibility

You have a responsibility to know yourself. As you change, seek to stay acquainted with your ever evolving body and mind. Treat it like a research project. Ask yourself, “What sounds exciting to me? What turns me on?” And then keep asking yourself these questions. 

Once you find your answers, communicate to your spouse what you’ve learned. If you are not comfortable talking about sex, get comfortable. Start small. Share with your spouse the great things they already do in addition to new things you want to incorporate. Talk with them about what sex will look like in the future, and discuss how to keep up your sexual relationship even if illness and other hazards of aging come up. 

If you have more worries about sex and aging, here are more resources to refer to! 

Sexuality and Intimacy: Older Adults

Of Age and Pleasure

At the end of the day, it can be a great adventure learning how to have sex at every stage of life. And just like fine wine, your sex life can keep getting better and better with age!

Written by Amanda Severson with Get Your Marriage On!

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<h3>Amanda Severson</h3>

Amanda Severson

Hi, I'm Amanda! I'm a grad student on her way to becoming a Marriage and Family Therapist. I'm a wife and a sex enthusiast. I am a psychology nerd whose life goal is to help every couple find the absolute joy of sharing your life with someone else.

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