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5 Tips for Retiree Sexual Health

Celebrate what your body has been through in your lifetime and appreciate what it can still do. See more healthy aging pictures.
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Guess what? Sex isn't just for attractive 20-somethings and the high schoolers on TV's "16 and Pregnant." Shocking, we know.

In a culture that often treats retirees as asexual, there is a dearth of magazine articles on how to please your partner or "seven sexy ways to make her blush." But as you can imagine, those who saw the sexual revolution are more than capable of having steamy sex lives.

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There are some obstacles -- lack of privacy in care centers, fragile joints and medical side effects number among them. As far as we're concerned, however, none of that should be insurmountable in the face of a very basic human need for physical intimacy. Here are five tips.

The physical changes that come with aging take place all over. And we do mean all over.

There are plenty of commercials singing the praises of various erectile dysfunction (ED) medications, but there are far fewer ads that talk about the sexual problems women face as they age.

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As women reach their older years, the vagina actually shortens, and the vaginal walls thin and become less elastic. Vaginal secretions dry up, which can make any kind of penetration painful. In some women, the clitoris can become much more sensitive, making direct stimulation uncomfortable (note that this is not the case for every woman).

One solution: water-based lubricants. They're not sticky, they're easy to wash off and they can make vaginal intercourse much more pleasurable. Astroglide is an extremely popular brand.

We've all heard that men die, on average, at a younger age than women. That leaves a lot of single ladies who may not be interested in widowhood for the rest of their days. There are fewer available older men, but that gives them a better chance of success on the dating market. And the greater your number of sexual partners, the more chance you have of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Some health care professionals were surprised to see the rise of STIs in nursing homes, and the media made much of sex-having retirees. But it's a simple fact that sex can be risky, and it's important for your health to be as safe as possible, no matter what your age.

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Condoms aren't just for people worried about getting pregnant -- they're a way to protect yourself and your partner.

While your sex life may have looked like the Kama Sutra when you were younger, some of those positions simply may not be possible when you're older. If you've got hip, back or knee problems, former favorites may have to be shelved.

But instead of getting frustrated, try to look at this as a chance to explore.

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If one of you has arthritis, try something that puts the responsibility of movement more on the other person (hey, it's a workout!).

There's a reason spooning is so popular. Besides being great for intimacy when the two of you aren't having sex, it's also a pleasurable position for many people with hip problems.

Pillows are your friend! Try one between the knees, under the pelvis, under your back -- wherever you need to relieve pressure on a joint or specific area of the body.

It's all about communication -- and creativity.

Straight couples, there's more to sex than penis-in-vagina intercourse. Vibrators can be used by both men and women, and oral and manual stimulation are other options. If one of you is having a tougher time with libido or pain issues, you can try masturbation together -- even if one of you is just being held while pleasuring yourself or whispering erotic fantasies in your ear, it's a great way to feel close.

Masturbation is, of course, a fabulous option for the single, and LGBT couples can benefit from the same tips.

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For people whose libido is seriously compromised by medications or illness, it might be enough to simply have non-sexual physical contact. Holding hands, cuddling, massage and good, old-fashioned making out are just as intimate as intercourse, and there is no shame in acknowledging that sometimes your sex drive is different from your partner's, or that you're having trouble feeling sexual desire at all.

Old age is a time of lots of change -- living situations can alter, loved ones pass away, and health and physical appearance metamorphose. Some of these changes cause a sense of loss, but it's also a chance to grow in different ways.

If a partner or spouse dies, your romantic life can still flourish once you've made it through your grief. Dating again after possibly decades of being with one person can be a little scary, but also exciting.

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Getting used to an empty house? Get rid of clutter and fill your home with things that make you happy -- and maybe try something completely different in the way of aesthetics. Feeling bored? Stop by the adult recreation center and learn Spanish.

Getting older can negatively affect a person's perception of his or her desirability. After all, Hollywood and advertisers seldom celebrate sagging skin. However, once you've made it through 70 years or so on this Earth, isn't it about time to get free of societal expectations?

Celebrate what your body has been through in your lifetime and appreciate what it can still do. And remember that sex and intimacy aren't over at any age.

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Sources

  • American Psychological Association. "Aging and Human Sexuality Resource Guide." (June 5, 2011) http://www.apa.org/pi/aging/resources/guides/sexuality.aspx
  • Avni, Sheerly. "Sex and the senior citizen." Salon.com. May 29, 2003. (June 6, 2011) http://dir.salon.com/mwt/feature/2003/05/29/juska/index.html
  • Bloom, Patricia. "Sex in the Later Years." SexualHealth.com. (June 5, 2011) http://www.sexualhealth.com/article/read/men-sexual-health/erectile-dysfunction-issues/412/
  • Bradford, Andrea and Cindy M. Meston. "Senior Sexual Health: The Effects of Aging on Sexuality." Innovations in Clinical Practice: Focus on Sexual Health." (June 5, 2011) http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/homepage/group/MestonLAB/Publications/bradford&meston_aging07.pdf
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  • National Institute on Aging. "Sexuality in Later Life." April 20, 2010. (June 5, 2011) http://www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Publications/sexuality.htm
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  • UW Medicine: Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. "Finding new positions." Sex and Arthritis. (June 5, 2011) http://www.orthop.washington.edu/PatientCare/OurServices/Arthritis/Articles/SexandArthritis.aspx

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