In this session we interviewed Individual, Couples and Psychosexual Therapist, Martina Bador, for her expertise on what sex really means for those who are aging and going through physical changes. In this blog find everything you need to know about sex, ageing, and health conditions including, what is “normal”, the affects, and what can help.
- The truth about having sex if you’re not young and fit!
- Is my sex life normal?
- How will aging affect my sex life?
- Therapy, aging and sex
The truth about having sex if you’re not young and fit!
When it comes to age, physical challenges, health conditions and impairments, sex is not always at the forefront of conversational topics, but why? Sexual activity and intimacy remain important at any age, and so they should!
We, as a society, seem to have the perception that sex is for the young, beautiful, and physically able. Well rest assured – this is not true. Everyone is ageing, and alongside age come physical changes and challenges, however, age does not mean we are not entitled to have sex or to want sex. Age can mean compromising many things, but sexual satisfaction should not have to be one of them.
“Everyone is beautiful in their own way, and everyone is beautiful to someone.”
It is vital that we acknowledge that sex is rewarding; it brings physical and mental health benefits that may just prolong your life. What sex used to look and feel like to you may be different as you age, and this can be a challenging concept, but in order to maintain a healthy sex life, learning to embrace and adapt to the physical changes in our bodies is essential.
“Studies have shown that a healthy sex life can be good for your heart, your blood pressure, and your stress levels. It might even help to boost your immune system. The NHS say anything that exercises your heart is good for you.” – Age UK
Is my sex life normal?
When it comes to sex, there is no specific “normal”. Letting go of the idea that sex involves an orgasm achieved by penetration and opening your mind to trying new things is the start to a new sex life that is ‘normal for you’. Sex can involve intercourse OR outercourse. If you have the opportunity, and the capacity to have sex the possibilities are endless.
It’s about pleasure and connectedness.
The best way to move forward is to ask yourself what you want from sex and to have effective communication with your sexual partner. What are you fears and desires? For some people sex and intimacy can mean touching, kissing, being naked or semi-naked together and experiencing pleasure. If you are unwell and / or have health conditions or impairments, physical acts and intimacy can be as sexually beneficial as intercourse.
Things that can be introduced to help your sex life along include sex toys, hormone replacement, cushions and other devices designed to make certain positions and the physical element easier.
Studies have shown how couples who had grown apart had a reduced sex life as opposed to couples who had maintained a foundational friendship and had continued to have a steady sexual relationship. Seeing a couples therapist / marriage therapist can help to find a way through unresolved issues within the relationship including past traumas, conflict, communication issues, infidelity, and mental health issues with the aim of rebuilding friendship, connection, trust, and intimacy.
No matter the issues you are experiencing, there is always a way of making things less difficult. If sex is causing you pain, please speak with your GP or a psychosexual therapist.
How will aging affect my sex life?
As we age there are things that can go wrong which can make your sex life more difficult. For both men and women, factors such as hormonal changes, menopause, decreased blood flow, medications, aches, and pains in the body may have an impact.
Other health problems that can affect us sexually include diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, dementia, high blood pressure, and poor mental health, brought about by higher stress levels, anxiety, and / or depression. In addition to these challenges, the prescribed medications to treat these issues can have side effects that are related to problems with sex and intimacy.
All of the above factors can cause issues such as, vaginal changes including dryness, shortening, and narrowing of the vagina, vaginal pain, erectile dysfunction, stamina, difficulty reaching orgasm, and low libido.
Residential settings for aging or elderly men and women consists of monitored environments that do not promote or encourage a healthy, accessible sex life. Studies have shown that older people who were placed in an environment where the settings reflected a time when they were younger, led to improved physical abilities and a younger mind set.
Age is a mindset. If society is telling you that you are at an age where sex is not realistic, it can create the idea that they’re right and it’s not for you. How people view themselves plays a rather large part in sexual relationships. Seeing a therapist can help to bring positive changes in how you view yourself and insight into what is and is not ‘realistic’.
How to improve your sexual health as you age:
- Encourage blood flow in regular exercise and activities such as walking, swimming or sex!
- Maintain a healthy diet.
- Always practise safe sex.
- Contact your GP with any concerns.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate!
- See a Psychosexual therapist.
- Do away with your previous definition of ‘normal sex.’
“There’s no point in your life where a switch flicks and that’s it. You’re done with that business now.”
Therapy, aging and sex
If your relationship is not working in the way you want it to, talk to someone about it! No matter the issues you are facing, things can always be changed, and nothing needs to stop you from having an intimate physical relationship. A counsellor or psychosexual therapist will provide a safe environment where you can speak openly about sexual concerns in a confidential space with no judgment, at a pace that works for you.
Our specialist therapists at the Leone Centre offer in person and online sessions – which is a much more accessible option when facing physical issues. Psychosexual therapy sessions available include couples’ sessions and individual sessions. Call us now on 0203 930 1007 or alternatively click on the Leone Centre scheduling link.