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Embracing Sex as We Age: Letting Go of 4 Myths

August 30, 2021 | By: Dr. Paurush Babbar

Say what you will about youth and the young; when it comes to sexual health, little is wasted on the mature.

A man and woman’s desire for, and enjoyment of, sexual intimacy does not have to fade with age, regardless of misperceptions. Our culture has evolved, and sexual health among older adults is no longer a taboo subject. In fact, Sept. 4 is the 11th annual World Sexual Health Day, a day dedicated to promoting sexual health and sexual rights among all people of all age groups.

So let’s break the ice regarding the real complications that could alter men’s and women’s sexual health as they age, and separate them from the myths. And how couples can overcome these challenges together.

4 Sexual Health Fallacies Meet Reality

It is true that as some people age, their desire for sex may subside, but it doesn’t die. They just might be held back by medical conditions. Let’s look frankly at these conditions and dispel a few key myths.

Myth: One must be young and look like a supermodel to enjoy sex.

Truth: Along with love and interest, chemistry draws people together, regardless of the years. That chemistry is produced through a cocktail of dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin, all of which are produced from the hypothalamus region of the brain and released during attraction. And attraction has no age – 65% of adults between 65 and 80 say they are still interested in sex.

Myth: Men can’t perform after age 50.

Truth: While at least half of men older than 50 experience some degree of erectile dysfunction, a healthy man can continue to be aroused late into life. The issue is his erection may not be as strong or lasting as it was when he was in his 20s and 30s, due to a natural decline in testosterone levels (injury or a health condition also are factors). However, ED is treatable with ultrasound wave therapy, prescription medications, injection therapy, devices, and even a prosthesis.

Myth: Women dislike sex as they age.

Truth: When women enter menopause, they may experience vaginal atrophy and dryness resulting from a decline in estrogen levels. This can cause pain during intercourse, but it can be treated with a variety of over-the-counter lubricants, estrogen creams, and hormone-releasing medications. Also, regular sexual activity increases blood flow to the vagina and keeps the tissues healthy.

Myth: Sex can be dangerous to an older person’s health.

Truth: Sexual activity has health-improving qualities. In addition to elevating heart rates, a sexual climax releases the hormone oxytocin, which alleviates stress and supports positive thinking. If there are physical limitations such as joint or muscle pain, couples can explore new positions and use pillows for support. Maybe that’s why 45% of those ages 65 to 80 in good health say they are sexually active.

Too Many People Give Up and Shouldn’t

A lot of adults who face common obstacles to sex are reluctant to discuss the issue because they don’t know who to turn to. So they give up. This is regrettable, because sexual intimacy can improve physical and emotional health, enrich relationships, and make life more enjoyable.

If you have concerns about whether sex, or any physical activity, could be dangerous to you or a partner, consult your doctor. And if you’d like to read more about sexual health issues, causes, and treatments, visit our Sexual Health web page.

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