As a caregiver, you know that the physical changes seniors experience as they age can make everyday tasks more challenging. Helping them navigate these new challenges involves a range of responsibilities, from monitoring their physical health, to helping them maintain a sense of independence. However, remembering that many seniors wish to remain sexually active and encouraging them to maintain their sexual health can be just as important for their wellbeing.
Sex can become more challenging with age, but that doesn’t mean anyone should have to give it up! Read on for information on aging and intimacy and tips for helping seniors maintain a healthy sex life.
The Health Benefits of Intimacy
Like anyone, seniors have desires and needs that extend beyond their physical health. Maintaining a healthy sex life can improve their relationships and promote feelings of independence, and it can even benefit their mental health. Sex activates neurotransmitters in the brain that can improve sleep, aid in pain relief and reduce depression and anxiety.
Sex can also improve seniors’ physical health by lowering blood pressure, improving heart health and boosting the immune system. For men, regular ejaculations can also reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer.
How Aging Can Affect Sexuality
The first step to improving sexual health for seniors is understanding how the physical changes that come with aging can affect sexual activity. Things like hormones, stamina and sexual function can all affect sexuality in both men and women as they age.
Changes in Women
Estrogen levels decline during perimenopause and postmenopause, causing physical changes that can affect sexual function. Low estrogen levels can cause vaginal dryness, pain with intercourse caused by vaginal atrophy and difficulty reaching orgasm. It can also lead to reduced sexual responsiveness, mood changes and lack of energy, all of which can indirectly affect sexual function and desire.
Changes in Men
In most men, testosterone levels begin to decline gradually after the age of 30. This can significantly impact sexual function as they reach their 60s and 70s. Some symptoms of this decline include difficulty producing and maintaining erections, shorter orgasms and longer recovery time between erections or ejaculations.
Not all seniors experience these symptoms, but even those who do can still find ways to enjoy sex. Tracking hormone levels with at-home tests can help catch any abnormalities, and discussing results with a doctor can help determine if any adjustments are needed.
How to Maintain a Healthy Sex Life
Once your client or loved one understands the physical changes that can affect their sexual health, it becomes much easier to know what steps to take to improve it. For women, using an FDA-approved, over the counter moisturizer or lubricant can help to combat vaginal dryness and painful intercourse. Doctors can also sometimes prescribe topical or oral medications to help relieve symptoms. For women who experience decreased libido as they age, prescribed medications or professional counseling can help.
For men, testosterone replacement therapy can help to increase sex drive. Healthcare providers can also prescribe oral medications to those who suffer from erectile dysfunction.
Finally, both men and women can benefit from communicating with their partner about their challenges. Discussing each other’s needs and establishing boundaries can reduce anxiety, improve sexual function, and lead to a healthier, more fulfilling sex life.