senior picWith Valentine’s Day approaching images of young love abound. But romantic love is not exclusive to young people.

“Many older couples actually find their sex lives to be more satisfying in later years,” says Michael S. Patriarco, DO, of St. Luke’s Center for Advanced Gynecologic Care. “As children move out and work responsibilities lessen, older adults have more time to nurture their relationship with their partners. They may feel less stress, enabling them to relax and enjoy one another more fully.”

On the other hand, the physical changes that accompany aging can sometimes affect sexual comfort and desire, he adds. For example, during the period leading to menopause, called perimenopause, women experience the physical effects of falling estrogen level. These may include hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness, all of which can undermine sexual motivation and drive. Women may also experience changes in her vagina, such as increased dryness.

“It is important to continue to have regular pelvic examinations before, during and after menopause,” Dr. Patriarco says. “During your yearly examination, talk to your provider about your sexual concerns. Your provider may suggest medication or over-the-counter products that can help. Also, you want to rule out disease or other causes of discomfort or disinterest.”

Decreased testosterone levels may decrease sexual interest in both women and men.
Men may experience other changes with age, such as having more difficulty achieving and maintaining an erection. Should this happen frequently, they should see their physician to rule out serious health conditions, such as heart disease or prostate problems.

“As people age, they may need to redefine their definition of an active sex life,” he says. “Perhaps in their 20s and 30s, they enjoyed intercourse several times a week. As they get older the frequency may decrease and they may find themselves enjoying other expressions of intimacy such as kissing, touching and just being together as rewarding.”

Although many couples grow older together, many seniors are single. And due to the death or divorce, some may be experiencing dating for the first time in decades. Dr. Partriarco advises seniors with new partners to practice safe sex by using a condom. Sexual transmitted infections, including HIV, are a concern at any age.

Because of its many health benefits, Dr. Partriarco encourages his patients to continue intimate relationships well into old age.

Benefits of Sex Include:

Improved mental and physical health. Sex can burn fat, cause the brain to release endorphins, and drastically reduce anxiety.
• Sex is a good cardiovascular exercise. It gets the heart pumping.
Improved sleep. Sex can release hormones that reduce stress, fear and anxiety helping you to sleep more soundly.
Stronger relationship. Sexually active partners report that they are more satisfied with one another.


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