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Sexuality in Later Life

What Can I Do? continued...

Some older people, especially women, may have trouble finding a partner with whom they can share any type of intimacy. Women live longer than men, so there are more of them. In 2000 women over age 65 outnumbered older men by 100 to 70. Doing activities that other seniors enjoy or going places where older people gather are ways to meet new people. Some ideas include mall walking, senior centers, adult education classes at a community college, or day trips sponsored by your city or county recreation department.

If you do seem to have a problem that affects your sex life, talk to your doctor. He or she can suggest a treatment depending on the type of problem and its cause. For example, the most common sexual difficulty of older women is dyspareunia, painful intercourse caused by poor vaginal lubrication. Your doctor or a pharmacist can suggest over-the-counter, water-based vaginal lubricants to use. Or, your doctor might suggest estrogen supplements or an estrogen vaginal insert.

If impotence is the problem, it can often be managed and perhaps even reversed. There is a pill that can help. It is called sildenafil and should not be taken by men taking medicines containing nitrates, such as nitroglycerin. This pill does have possible side effects. Other available treatments include vacuum devices, self-injection of a drug (either papaverine or prostaglandin E1), or penile implants.

There is a lot you can do to continue an active sex life. Follow a healthy lifestyle-exercise, eat good food, drink plenty of fluids like water or juices, don't smoke, and avoid alcohol. Try to reduce the stress in your life. See your doctor regularly. And keep a positive outlook on life.

For More Information

The following organizations and government agencies have information that may be of help.

American Cancer Society
1599 Clifton Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30329

American Foundation for Urologic Disease, Inc.
1000 Corporate Boulevard
Linthicum, MD 21090
866-746-4282 (toll-free)

National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
3 Information Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3580

For more information on health and aging, contact:

National Institute on Aging Information Center
P.O. Box 8057
Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8057
800-222-2225 (toll-free)
800-222-4225 (TTY toll-free)

To order publications (in English or Spanish) or sign up for regular email alerts, visit:

The National Institute on Aging website is .

Visit ( ), a senior-friendly website from the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine. This simple-to-use website features popular health topics for older adults. It has large type and a 'talking' function that reads the text out loud.


WebMD Public Information from the U.S. National Institutes of Health

Edited on December 20, 2005

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