Sexuality in Later Life
Am I Too Old To Worry About Safe Sex?
Having safe sex is important for people at any age. As a woman gets closer
to menopause, her periods may be irregular. But, she can still get pregnant. In
fact, pregnancy is still possible until your doctor says you are past
menopause-you have not had a menstrual period for 12 months.
Age does not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases. Young people
are most at risk for diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydial
infection, genital herpes, hepatitis B, genital warts, and trichomoniasis. But
these diseases can and do happen in sexually active older people.
Almost anyone who is sexually active is also at risk for being infected with
HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The number of older people with HIV/AIDS is
growing. One out of every 10 people diagnosed with AIDS in the United States is
over age 50. You are at risk if you have more than one sexual partner or are
recently divorced or widowed and have started dating and having unprotected sex
again. Always use a latex condom during sex, and talk to your doctor about ways
to protect yourself from all sexually transmitted diseases. You are never too
old to be at risk.
Can Emotions Play a Part?
Sexuality is often a delicate balance of emotional and physical issues. How
you feel may affect what you are able to do. For example, men may fear that
impotence will become a more common problem as they age. But, if you are too
concerned with that possibility, you can cause enough stress to trigger
impotence. A woman who is worried about how her looks are changing as she ages
may think her partner will no longer find her attractive. This focus on
youthful physical beauty may get in the way of her enjoyment of sex.
Older couples face the same daily stresses that affect people of any age.
But they may also have the added concerns of age, illness, and retirement and
other lifestyle changes. These worries can cause sexual difficulties. Talk
openly with your doctor, or see a counselor. These health professionals can
Don't blame yourself for any sexual difficulties you and your partner are
having. You might want to talk with a therapist about them. If your male
partner is troubled by impotence or your female partner seems less interested
in sex, don't assume they don't find you attractive anymore. There can be many
physical causes for their problems.
What Can I Do?
There are several things you can do on your own to keep an active sexual
life. Remember that sex does not have to include intercourse. Make your partner
a high priority. Pay attention to his or her needs and wants. Take time to
understand the changes you both are facing. Try different positions and new
times, like having sex in the morning when you both may have more energy. Don't
hurry-you or your partner may need to spend more time touching to become fully
aroused. Masturbation is a sexual activity that some older people, especially
unmarried, widowed, or divorced people and those whose partners are ill or
away, may find satisfying.