Many people in recovery are in the older age groups.
Either starting recovery or well along the road sexual activity and responses can be different to what they remember or may have a different spiritual meaning.
By understanding age changes one can accommodate new experiences rather than be confused or disheartened.
Sexual Desire May Never Stop
Women and men have the capacity for sexual desire and sexual activity throughout their lives. There is no reason why one cannot express one’s sexuality well beyond the “reproductive years” (the ages during which men and women are fertile).
In fact, women and men who have been sexually active throughout their adult lives seem to be more sexually responsive in old age than those who have not. The key to maintaining sexual function in later years is to continue a pattern of regular sexual activity over a lifetime.
Many cultures have strong biases against sexual activity among the middle-aged and elderly, and expressions of sexual attraction among the elderly are sometimes treated with disdain.
In much of the world, “sexy” is synonymous with “young”—media images of young, sexually vibrant people abound, while images of healthy sexuality among those middle age and beyond are nearly nonexistent.
These attitudes can also keep middle-aged and elderly people from receiving adequate health care.
For example, health care workers often neglect to deal with issues related to sexually transmitted infections when they are treating older clients because they mistakenly assume that older clients could not be engaging in risk-taking sexual behaviors.
Similarly, health care workers who do not consider the effects of chronic medical conditions and medications on sexual response when dealing with older clients may not anticipate these clients’ dissatisfaction with services and discontinuation of treatment if side effects occur.
If your doctor or counsellor does not talk about sexuality raise the subject yourself or find another healthcare worker.
Although sexual activity can continue well into one’s 90s and beyond, the aging process does have an effect on sexual responses and function.
- the response cycle slows down: the stages of response take longer to achieve,
- the intensity of sensation may be reduced, and
- the genital organs become somewhat less sensitive.
- sexual excitement and orgasm are diminished, yet pleasurable.
Despite somewhat diminished response, a woman in her 30s or 40s may actually achieve orgasm more readily than she did in her younger years, possibly because of a greater familiarity with and understanding of her body and its responses.
In older women, menopause results in drastic drops in hormones, causing changes that affect sexual function. These hormone-related changes include
- thinning of the vaginal lining,
- reduced elasticity, and
- decreased lubrication, often resulting in discomfort or pain during intercourse.
- Urinary incontinence may also occur, as well as loss of libido.
Normal physiological changes include the following:
- A decrease in libido may be experienced, particularly for postmenopausal women.
Excitement and Plateau:
- Delayed nipple erection;
- reduced vaginal lip opening (tighter),
- reduced vaginal lip swelling, and
- reduced vaginal expansion;
- delayed and/or reduced lubrication during excitement;
- decreased elevation of the womb; and
- reduced muscle tension.
- Women who have experienced multiple vaginal deliveries experience more relaxed vaginal tone, which may result in less stimulation during vaginal intercourse.
- Delayed and less-firm erection;
- delayed nipple erection;
- longer excitement stage;
- decreased pre-ejaculatory fluid;
- longer interval from excitement to ejaculation;
- reduced muscle tension;
- diminished lifting of the scrotum and testes;
- shorter phase of impending orgasm.
- more direct stimulation may be required to achieve and maintain an erection.
- Women experience a reduced spread of sexual flush.
- In men, ejaculation time is shorter, with reduced volume of ejaculate and fewer ejaculatory contractions.
- In women, there is no expansion of the cervix.
- Men experience a more rapid loss of erection and a significantly longer period for ‘seconds’, though with a more rapid return to the preexcitement state.
- Nipple erection lasts longer after orgasm.
One’s later years can offer a rich sex life without the worry of pregnancy and the inconvenience of contraception.
However, it is important to remember that the risk of acquiring HIV and other STI’s is not reduced with age.