Expert Speak

When it comes to intimacy, should couples slow down as age catches up with them?

Sex in your 60s is often the butt of jokes and disbelief, but becoming older does not make one automatically asexual. Learn about your body's changes and seek treatment if required
asexual couple in bed

With inputs from Dr Sharmila Majumdar

Dr Sharmila Majumdar Sexologist
Dr Sharmila Majumdar is the first female Sexologist in India. She specializes in female & male sexual dysfunctions and psychoanalysis. She is also a regular contributor to various medical magazines and portals.

Busting the myth

Though general perception and prejudices have led many to think of old age as ‘asexual’ or of sex among older people as being disgusting or simply funny, this is nothing more than a myth.

Slowing down of response timings, side effects of medications, illnesses, and unhealthy life style choices might hurt the libidos of senior couples, but despite that, couples open to alternatives are able to continue to lead deeply satisfying intimate lives together in their golden years… and why not?

Causes of decrease in sexual interest and function in older adults

What are the reasons for the lower interest in sex and the reduced function? They could range from the obvious ones like deterioration of general physical health or perhaps loss of partner to the less known ones like male sexual dysfunction, female sexual dysfunction, various psychological causes. Or it could simply be due to delay in seeking timely help from a sexologist due to embarrassment.

What can the older couple do to address the issues of lower sexual interest and function?

Related reading: Heartbreak has left me unable to achieve erections

Lifestyle choices

Lack of exercise, smoking, obesity, diabetes, etc. affect sexual appetite and functioning negatively. Just as all other human functions, an active sex life needs a healthy mind and body. Lifestyle choices made years ago come into play now. Well-balanced diets, regular exercise, regular medical check-ups and a positive attitude should stand one in good stead.

Lifestyle choices

Added bonus: The concept of remaining sexually active even later in life years may push people to make healthier choices in their young days.

Are your meds hurting your sex drive?

An enlarged prostate is a problem most men will encounter as they age. Proscar, which is used to treat it, lowers testosterone, thereby reducing the libido too. Similarly, the highly popular painkillers NSAIDs, which are popped like candy by many women, could be sabotaging their lubrication and hence libido. Check with your doctor about the side effects of the medicines that you are taking. You could ask them to recommend one that doesn’t affect the libido or one that counteracts the side effects.

Don’t shy away from meeting a sexologist

Low sexual performance or desire may be attributed to old age by senior citizens themselves, too, when all the while it might be due to a very treatable medical condition. Unless it is something like cancer, enlarged prostrate or high diabetes, chances are that your doctor can fix it. Don’t let ‘feeling embarrassed’ to meet a doctor make you miss out on intimacy!

A sexologist will be able to correctly educate you about the actual changes that you should expect in sexual functioning as you age and the options available to counter them. Don’t let the scary/depressing changes in the body unnerve you. Meet a good doctor and be prepared to face the changes head on.

Side note: Sexologists also need to educate themselves to increase awareness of sexuality among those of older age and improve communication skills. A multidisciplinary approach should be used when possible.

Related reading: Why couples go off sex and tips to get back your sexual mojo

Copy the youngsters

With everything going for them –healthy bodies, fast reflexes, crazy sex drives, popular culture, youngsters still, at times, take the assistance of sex toys, lubricants, doctors’ suggestions, satisfying alternatives to intercourse and so on. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t try them out, too. Intimacy is a precious part of a loving caring relationship; do not be afraid of embracing a few changes to keep the ol’ fire burning.

experts advice

Chill! There’s no performance pressure

Research states that the centenarians reported greater satisfaction with ‘life and family relationships’ as compared to that from ‘sex’. Crossed 60? You’ve already been branded asexual. You can use it to your advantage. Whatever you and your partner do, will now exceed all expectations! Woohoo!

Jokes apart, couples in their 60s, 70s and above may not be as sexually intimate as their younger counterparts, but they’re definitely not asexual. As they adapt to the changes that ageing invariably brings, they could very well enjoy deep, meaningful and fulfilling intimacy, along with companionship.

Being sexually active with one’s partner in the senior years is definitely not disgusting or remotely funny. If anything, it is only the most fortunate ones of us who have companionship in our old age… and the slightly more fortunate ones will have the energising zing of intimacy too!

Senior citizen sex facts! – Yup they exist

  1. A whopping 98% of 50–59 year olds give ‘some importance’ to sex. The number is 72% for 70 to 80 year olds. It dwindles but stays a proud high at 59% for 75 to 85 year olds.
  2. Gender differences: In the age group of 75 to 85, 41.2% of males stated an interest in sex, as compared to just 11.4% of females. The men nearly always initiated the sexual interactions rather than the women.
  3. Interest in sex among older men has increased over the last 10 years, possibly due to the effective and well-publicised drugs for erectile dysfunction (ED) starting with Viagra in 1998.
  4. Though sexual functions across four domains, desire, erection, orgasm and ejaculatory functions, found a decrease in all with increasing age – even among the oldest men (aged 70–80), almost half, 46%, reported monthly orgasms!

Why couples go off sex and tips to get back your sexual mojo

The older couple and physical intimacy

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4 Comments

  1. Wow! Bonobology never stops to surprise me! Just the fact that the piece talks about libidos in the elderly deserves an applause and then bringing in actual medical expert opinions on the same makes it even more authentic. I agree to the part that says that we as a society feel ashamed of talking/discussing about sexual matters – one can only imagine the inhibitions of someone “not young enough”when it comes to seeing a sexologist. I applaud the conversation and hope that it reaches as many people as possible. Because, everyone deserves to be happy! remember – naa umra ki seema ho…na janm ka ho bandhan 🙂

    1. Dear Simran,
      Thank you for the encouraging words. It is feedback such as this that keeps us going, and trying to change the narrative around vital issues such as thus.
      Agree with you, ‘everyone does deserve to be happy’ ❤
      Much love,
      Aarti

  2. Human beings are actually never too old to enjoy a happy and healthy sex life. Despite this, many people, young and old alike, are astounded at the idea of people remaining sexually active in their sixties and beyond. I don’t know why?

    And I completely agree with the piece, blessed are those couples who actually maintain intimacy and companionship even in their old age. I look forward to those couples!

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