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Sex Tips for Older Adults

  1. Communicate
  2. Use a lubricant
  3. Try a new position
  4. Explore and discover
  5. Make love in the morning
  6. Get some extra assistance
  7. Defy convention
  8. Set the mood
  9. Build up to it
  10. Increase stimulation

The bedroom

Communicate
Open and effective communication can go a long way in improving older adults sex lives. It is important to be open and discuss sex-related issues with your partner. Without open communication, misunderstandings can occur that may lead to negative consequences. If one older adult is reluctant to initiate sexual relations with his partner because of arthritis pain, without effective communication, his partner may take the lack of sexual intimacy as a personal rejection [2]. Communicating with your partner about what you want and what you do not want in a clear and positive way is arguably the most important part of a healthy sexual relationship.

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Use a lubricant
Following menopause, women generally find that their vaginas are less flexible and less lubricated during sexual arousal than they were prior to menopause [5]. Less lubrication during vaginal intercourse can lead to a good deal of unpleasantness or even downright pain. A water-based personal lubricant, such as Astroglide or Wet, can go a long way in alleviating discomfort stemming from vaginal dryness. A lubricant can be applied to either partner, but for the most lubrication, it can be applied to both! Find out more about combating vaginal dryness from Astroglide's Mature Lifestyles page.

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Try a new position
Some older adults may find that sexual positions that they had used when they were younger are no longer comfortable. This can be a good excuse to try new sexual positions. One effective way for many older adults to have sex is "on the side" [4]. In this position, the man and woman both lie on their sides with the man "spooning" the woman. It may take a little practice to get used to, but this position is effective because it allows vaginal intercourse without putting major stress on any joints or necessitating one partner to put his or her weight on the other.

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Explore and discover
It is possible that changes in older age could make having vaginal intercourse less probable or even impossible. By no means, however, does this have to be the end of an older adult's sexuality. While our society may emphasize vaginal intercourse, there is a vast array of fulfilling sexual acts beyond "insert penis into vagina." Mutual masturbation, oral sex, shared fantasy, cuddling, and kissing can be healthy and fulfilling forms of sexual expression with or without vaginal intercourse.

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Make love in the morning
For retired older adults, more time may mean more time for sexual activity. It is often recommended that older adults should try making love in the morning. Being well-rested after a good night's sleep can mean good sex, and older men are more likely to have a firm erection in the morning [1].

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Get some extra assistance
If older adults are having certain troubles sexually, sometimes extra assistance can lead these troubles to be overcome. For instance, if one partner needs a lot of manual stimulation to become aroused, and the other partner has arthritis in the hands or tires easily, perhaps a vibrator would be just the extra assistance needed. Often, the necessary extra assistance comes in the form of psychological therapy. In older men, for example, impotence is often caused not by the decrease in testosterone that comes with aging; rather it is likely caused by medications, chronic illness, or psychological problems such as anxiety or depression [5,3]. It is normal for an older man to have problems getting an erection during sexual activity every once in a while. Sometimes, however, not getting an erection one time can lead a man to have such anxiety about getting and maintaining an erection, that he will have created a self-fulfilling prophecy [5]. This may be an instance where outside psychological assistance could help overcome a sexual problem.

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Defy convention
American society conveys many negative stereotypes about aging, that may cause older individuals to wonder whether they are considered worthy of sexual desire, whether they should still want to have sex, or whether they are still capable of having sex [5]. The truth is that older adults are most often sexually desirable, desirous, and capable. Internalizing these positive attitudes and disregarding negative stereotypes about aging can go a long way in terms of providing for a healthy sex life in older age.

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Set the mood
Just like their younger counterparts, older adults can benefit sexually from developing a relaxed and sexy mood prior to having sex; things like sharing a romantic dinner, taking a shower or bath together, exchanging massages, or listening to music together can help enhance sexual activity [2]. Sexual relations often lead naturally from activities like these. This natural flow from a broader intimacy to sexual intimacy helps to combat any internalized attitudes about sex in older adults being unnatural, which it is not.

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Build up to it
Because older adults generally take longer to become physiologically aroused than younger adults, there is even more reason to focus on foreplay. This is no cause for alarm. In fact, researchers suggest that extended foreplay and slower but longer intercourse is the best idea for sexually active older adults [5].

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Increase stimulation
Increased genital stimulation can lead to an increase in sexual fulfillment for both men and women. As men age, it often takes them a longer time to gain an erection and to ejaculate [2]. Thus increased physical stimulation of the penis during sexual activity may be needed. As women age, they may find that they have decreased clitoral sensitivity [6]. Also, they will probably find that their clitoris becomes less engorged with blood during sexual activity [6]. This lack of engorgement might lead the clitoris to be less stimulated during vaginal intercourse without manual stimulation. Increased manual clitoral stimulation during sexual activity can help in the sexual fulfillment of older women.

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References

1. Butler, R., & Lewis, M. (1993). Love and sex after 60. New York: Ballantine.
2. Byer, C., Shainberg, L., & Galliano, G. (1999). Dimensions of Human Sexuality. Boston: McGraw-Hill College.
3. HealthCentral - General Encyclopedia - Impotence and age. http://www.healthcentral.com/mhc/top/002105.cfm (December 6, 2000).
4. Sex And Aging - Sexual Health infoCenter. http://www.sexhealth.org/infocenter/SexAging/tips.htm (December 6, 2000).
5. Sex and the Elderly. http://www.umkc.edu/sites/hsw/age/index.html (December 6, 2000).
6. WebMD/Lycos Article - Natural Menopause. http://webmd.lycos.com/content/dmk
/dmk_article_5963051
(December 6, 2000).

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