211022 Sexuality and Intimacy in Older Adults 1 of 3

211022 Sexuality and Intimacy in Older Adults

The following comes from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/sexuality-and-intimacy-older-adults

Sexuality is the way we experience and express ourselves sexually. It involves feelings, desires, actions, and identity, and can include many different types of physical touch or stimulation. Intimacy is a feeling of closeness and connectedness in a relationship that can occur with or without a physical component.

Aging brings life transitions that can create opportunities for older adults to redefine what sexuality and intimacy mean to them. Some older adults strive for both a sexual and intimate relationship, some are content with one without the other, and still others may choose to avoid these types of connections.

The following information is for older adults who want sexuality and intimacy in their lives. Included are common aging-related challenges and opportunities, and approaches to consider making the most of individual situations in these areas.

What are expected changes?

Sexuality is often affected by one’s emotional and physical state. How you physically feel may affect what you are able to do and how you emotionally feel may affect what you want to do.

Many older couples find greater satisfaction in their sex lives than they did when they were younger. They may have fewer distractions, more time and privacy, and no worries about getting pregnant. They also may be better able to express what they want and need, which can offer an opportunity for greater intimacy and connection.

Normal aging also brings physical changes that can sometimes interfere with the ability to have and enjoy sex. As we age, our bodies change, including our weight, skin, and muscle tone. Some older adults don’t feel comfortable in their aging bodies. They may worry that their partner will no longer find them attractive. Health conditions can cause physical problems, along with stress and worry, that can get in the way of intimacy or enjoying a fulfilling sex life.

Two common changes that older adults experience are related to the sex organs. The vagina can shorten and narrow, and the vaginal walls can become thinner and stiffer. For most, there will be less vaginal lubrication, and it may take more time for the vagina to naturally lubricate itself. These changes could make certain types of sexual activity, such as vaginal penetration, painful or less desirable.

With age, impotence (also called erectile dysfunction, or ED) also becomes more common. ED is the loss of ability to have and keep an erection, and the erection may not be as firm or as large as it used to be. ED is not a problem if it happens every now and then, but if it occurs often, talk with your doctor. Menopause is another change that may affect sexuality and intimacy in older adults. During a woman’s menopausal transition, which can last for a number of years and ends when she has not had a period in 12 months, there may be a variety of symptoms. These can include hot flashes, trouble falling and staying asleep, and mood changes. The desire to have sex may increase or decrease. Women using hormone therapy to treat hot flashes or other menopausal symptoms may experience a considerable boost in sexual interest and drive.

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