With inputs from Dr Sharmila Majumdar
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?
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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.
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.
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.
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!