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50+: Live Better, Longer

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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 often help.

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.

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