Adapting to the Changes

Sex will change as you get older – but it does not have to become less enjoyable.  In fact, sex often gets better as people age.  There is less of the earlier physical urgency for sexual satisfaction and many people feel more confident and comfortable with their sexuality.  In a long term relationship both partners may know their own and their partner’s bodies in a more intimate way than when they were younger.

What’s important is that you and your partner are both aware of the physical changes that are happening (see Suggested Resources) and that you’re willing to accommodate those differences into your love making style. 

Communicate with your partner: 

Even though it may feel uncomfortable, talk to your partner openly and honestly about your sexual relationship. 

  • Discuss the changes you’re both going through and what each of you can do to adapt to these changes.
  • If you think there is a problem in your relationship, don’t ignore it.  Ignoring problems or pretending they will go away can lead to a breakdown in communication and intimacy – emotional as well as physical.
  • Arrange times for you and your partner to be alone and to spend time together. 

Make changes to your routine: 

Simple changes can improve your sex life.  But discuss them with your partner first.  Neither person should feel pressured into doing something they’re not comfortable with.

  • Try different positions and new times of the day – like being sexual earlier in the day when you both may have more energy. 
  • It might take longer for you to become aroused so take more time to set the stage. Go out for dinner or an evening of dancing; take a walk or go to the gym together. The activity doesn’t matter - the important thing is connecting with each other.
  • If acceptable, explore new ways to give sexual pleasure to each other or yourself.  Try a new sexual position; take turns giving each other a massage; explore masturbation (alone or with your partner); experiment with sex toys.
  • Remember: the brain is an important sex organ and skin is our largest organ.  Expand your thinking: ‘sex = sexual intercourse’ limits the possibility for pleasure.

Manage your expectations: 

If you didn’t have sex very often as a younger adult, don’t expect to have lots of sex as an older adult.  You and your partner may express intimacy in other ways.  On the other hand, if a lack of interest in sexual activity was related to difficulties in a previous relationship, you may discover a renewed interest in this part of your sexuality. 

Be patient – both men and women may notice that it takes longer to become sexually aroused than when they were younger.  More touching may be needed to become fully aroused.  NOTE: This increase in time to reach arousal is usually not related to a lack of interest in your partner.

If you do notice that you are generally less interested in sex than before, look at what factors may be involved.  For example, sex drive at any age may be decreased by stress, fatigue, depression, or other lifestyle factors like smoking or alcohol/drug use.  The impact on our sexual interest and responsiveness increases with age.

Loss of sex drive or difficulty with sexual arousal can also be a side effect of prescription medication.  DO NOT stop taking this medication on your own - talk to your doctor.  Often the doctor will be able to adjust the dose or switch to another equally effective medication that does not have the same side effect.

Take care of yourself: 

  • A balanced diet (with plenty of fruits and vegetables) and regular exercise keep your body finely tuned.  This keeps you ready for sex at any age.
  • Try to reduce the stress in your life or learn ways to manage it.
  • Keep a positive outlook on life.
  • Get involved in activities or hobbies that interest you.
  • Avoid alcohol, as excessive use decreases sexual function in both men and women.  Drugs such as marijuana and cocaine can also impair sexual function.

Is body image an issue?  

Our youth oriented world with its air-brushed images can make people “feel old” or less attractive in their older body. 

  • If body image issues are getting in the way of your ability to enjoy physical intimacy, talk about this with your partner or a counselor, if necessary.
  • Focus on your strengths.  Remember that your appearance is only one aspect of who you are as a person. 
  • Be creative in finding ways to make yourself feel more attractive. 

Get information: 

You might be embarrassed to discuss sex with your doctor but it’s important to rule out health concerns.  Your doctor may be able to help you understand the changes your body is going through as you age and how these changes affect your sexual activity.

Doctors, themselves, sometimes feel uncomfortable asking a patient about their sexual relationships.  If this is the case, it is important to introduce the topic yourself by asking questions and being specific about any concerns you have.