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Libidos Rage At Any Age

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Dear Dr. Levister: I’m 76 and enjoy spending intimate time with my wife of 41 years. Our children say we should pack it in. What’s your medical advice? G.C.

Dear G.C.: Forget the myths about sex and aging, libidos rage at any age. The need for intimacy is timeless. And studies now confirm that no matter what your gender, you can enjoy sex for as long as you wish. Naturally, sex at 70 or 80 may not be like it is at 20 or 30—but in some ways it can be better. As a senior, you may feel wiser than you were in your earlier years, and know what works best for you when it comes to your sex life. Older people often have a great deal more self-confidence and self-awareness, and feel released from the unrealistic ideals of youth and prejudices of others. And with children grown and work less demanding, couples are better able to relax and enjoy one another without the old distractions.

For a number of reasons, though, many seniors worry about sex in their later years, and end up turning away from sexual encounters. Some older adults feel embarrassed, either by their aging bodies or by their “performance,” while others are affected by illness or loss of a partner. Without accurate information and an open mind, a temporary situation can turn into a permanent one. You can avoid letting this happen by being proactive. Whether you’re seeking to restart or improve your sex life, it’s important to be ready to try new things, and to ask for professional help if necessary. According to AARP, 85% of men and women age 60+ report having at least one sexual experience (with another person) per week.

That's the good news. The bad is that along with all this hooking up comes increased risk of STDs. Condom use isn't in vogue with those of a certain age because many equate slipping one on with avoiding pregnancy, and since getting pregnant isn't an issue--why sheath? Bad choice. According to the CDC, the percentage of those 50 and older infected with HIV is increasing, accounting for about 20% of overall cases as of 2008.

And syphilis likes to stick with those middle-aged and older. Three times as many syphilis cases pop up in that age bracket versus that of those in their late teens and twenties (for whom chlamydia and gonorrhea remain the Godzilla and King Kong of STDs). Just remember: Sexually transmitted diseases do not discriminate based on age. If you're not in a monogamous relationship, you or your partner should use a HYPERLINK "http://www.healthywomen.org/glossary/term/5147"condom.

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