Sexual Desire and Aging

Several factors play a role in determining whether an older person is sexually active, including the biological processes associated with normal aging, the desire to engage in some form of sexual activity, and availability of a suitable partner and privacy for sexual expression.

Biological Changes with Age

Among men, some sexual problems may increase with age, but not necessarily because of aging. The incidence of erectile dysfunction increases for men over 40 and escalates with each decade. The intensity of sexual sensation among men over 40 may be reduced, as may be the speed of erection and the force of ejaculation. Compared with younger men, middle-aged men (45 to 50 years old) are more likely to experience orgasm in one stage, involving a shorter orgasmic period and a rapid shrinking of the erection after ejaculation. The amount of time before another erection can be achieved usually increases, as does the amount of time an erection can be maintained.

Among women, biological changes leading to menopause may extend over a 20-year period, with onset generally in the mid 30s and occasionally extending beyond the mid 50s. After menopause, the intensity of sexual response may be reduced, and for some postmenopausal women intercourse may be painful due to vaginal dryness. For many women, estrogen replacement therapy can relieve

Reproductive System vaginal dryness and other symptoms of menopause and may help restore sexual desire.

Hormone levels play a role in men's sexual expression, and changes in hormone levels may account for some of the age-related changes in sexuality. Testosterone is the key hormone that regulates sexual response in men and has some effect in women. Testosterone is produced by the adrenal glands, testicles, and ovaries. Women produce less than a tenth of the amount produced by men. Testosterone levels in men are highest in the morning right after waking and decrease throughout the day, so blood tests for testosterone are taken before 9:00 am for accuracy. After a rise during adolescence, testosterone production declines throughout life in men. Much less is known about age-related production of testosterone in women.

Changes in Sexual Desire with Age

Although aging brings biological changes that may dampen sexual interest in some people, the demands of daily life also shape older people's sexual desires or drives. Engaging in sex at any age requires an investment of time, emotion, and energy As for people in other age groups, older people's sexual drives may decline under the pressures of mental or physical fatigue, preoccupation with business, overindulgence in food or drink, physical illness, or fear of sexual failure. For some people, boredom within the relationship also may be a factor in a loss of sexual interest. Life events and major transitions often affect a person's interest in sex.

Many healthy older men maintain their production of testosterone at levels equal to those of younger men. Men feel some level of sexual desire throughout life. A positive self-image is probably the single greatest contributor to sexual desire. Men and women who feel good about their bodies and who perceive themselves as physically desirable are more likely to have a satisfying sexual relationship than those who do not. Women, however, are more likely to base their self-image primarily on judgments about their appearance; men also consider appearance but give greater weight to their sexual performance. Men and women with positive attitudes toward sex are more likely to remain sexually active throughout their lives.

Sex and the Older Couple

Many older adults who have an active sex life say that sex feels as good or better than when they were younger. The changes that come with age, such as a man's taking longer to achieve orgasm, can provide an opportunity for couples to become more sexually compatible.Also, without the distraction and demands of children, or worries about contraception, older couples may find themselves at a stage of life that is more conducive to sexual intimacy. Retirement allows more time to enjoy each other.

Sex and the Older Couple

Many older adults who have an active sex life say that sex feels as good or better than when they were younger. The changes that come with age, such as a man's taking longer to achieve orgasm, can provide an opportunity for couples to become more sexually compatible.Also, without the distraction and demands of children, or worries about contraception, older couples may find themselves at a stage of life that is more conducive to sexual intimacy. Retirement allows more time to enjoy each other.

Lack of a Partner 145

While the desire for sexual activity can remain strong in later years, interest Sexuauty often outlives opportunity. Having a suitable partner is a major factor in whether and how often older people engage in sexual activity. Although individual characteristics are important for attracting a potential partner, events that influence social relationships are even more important. For example, marriage, remarriage, separation, divorce, or death of a spouse can influence opportunities for developing relationships and having sex. Other factors, such as gender, sexual orientation, and the influence of family and other social networks also affect the chances of finding a suitable partner.

Older married people are more likely than single people of the same age to report engaging in sexual intercourse. But marriage does not guarantee a partner for life. Health problems that develop over the course of a marriage can interfere with one partner's or both partners' ability to engage in sex. Because men have a shorter life expectancy and women tend to marry older men, women are more likely to be widowed. Nearly 34 percent of women and 7 percent of men are widowed at ages 55 to 59; 60 percent of women and only 18 percent of men are widowed at age 85 or older.

Sexual activity can also include a range of behaviors that do not require a partner. Erotic dreams and fantasies represent mental sources of arousal and pleasure that can occur when one is alone. Sexual fantasies and dreams allow for an acceptable expression of sexual feelings and can provide an avenue for sexual expression when other forms of sex are unavailable. Older adults seem to enjoy both forms of sexuality. Masturbation is a healthy and readily available form of sexual activity that can be practiced alone and can provide sexual release for both men and women.

Retirement Planning For The Golden Years

Retirement Planning For The Golden Years

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