Knowing what to expect as you age can make intimacy more enjoyable for you and your partner.
Your sex life doesn’t end once you reach a certain age. Older people continue to enjoy active sex lives well into their 70s and 80s, according to a study in the January 2016 issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior. In fact, 54% of men over age 70 report they are still sexually active. Still, older men need to change their mindset when it comes to this next phase of their sex life.
“Our culture has a narrow perspective of what is considered good or ‘normal’ sex,” says Dr Sharon Bober, director of the Sexual Health Program at Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Center. “Your body and mind change as you age, which means your sex life does, too.”
The main sexual issue older men face is to think they should function physically like they once did. For instance, after age 50, erections can become less firm and reliable. This can create much guilt, anxiety, and frustration.
But men should not overreact about why they don’t have the same physical reaction as before. Instead, they need to understand it need not be a barrier. “Men don’t need an erection to have an orgasm, nor to satisfy their partner,” says Dr Bober.
One way to overcome this is to think less about intercourse and more about “outercourse,” says Dr Bober. This means focusing your attention on foreplay and manual stimulation with your partner, like massage, petting, kissing, and masturbation. “The emphasis is on intimacy and closeness rather than performance,” says Dr Bober. “This allows men to become less stressed and more engaged in connecting with their partner.”
However, if you do experience any degree of erectile dysfunction (ED), ask your doctor about prescription medication. Some estimates suggest less than 10% of older men have ever tried an ED drug when they have erectile dysfunction.
What you can do
There are other steps you can take to embrace outercourse. For example:
- Recreate date night. Make an effort to go out on a scheduled basis and experience something new together. It could be a hobby or an event you both have always wanted to check out, or even a quick day or overnight trip. “Doing something different can offer a sense of excitement that can bring you and your partner closer together,” says Dr Bober. “Couples need to have romance and novelty to be emotionally, mentally, and physically stimulated.”
- Focus on the nonsexual. When was the last time you and your partner just hugged, kissed, and explored each other’s bodies without the goal of sex? “Couples may say they don’t do that anymore because they are married, but do not underestimate the excitement of re-exploring the early rituals of courtship,” she says.
- Mix up your sex routine. “Try a different setting or time of day, like having sex in the morning when you both may be well-rested,” says Dr Bober. “Just having a conversation about how to change up the regular routine can be fun and exciting.”
Changes in desire
Older men can lose interest in sex at times, but that is normal. When this occurs, often it is because the sexual connection between your mind and body is out of sync. During these periods, engage more in the mental side of sex, such as erotic thoughts, fantasy, and memories, says Dr Bober. “This can be pleasurable for men without needing physical stimulation, and eventually it can help the mind and body reconnect.”
Desire also can wane if you are not involved with anyone. But again, do not feel under pressure to fill that part of your life. “You need to ask yourself if it bothers you,” says Dr Bober. “If it is not something on your radar right now, no need to worry about it. You will know when you are ready for affection.”
And even then, a new relationship does not have to involve sex right away. “It can be about building an emotional connection, which can create anticipation like you felt when you were younger. Many times this alone can reignite a man’s sexual drive.”
Exercise for better sex
Men who exercise more have better sex lives, says a study in the March 2015 Journal of Sexual Medicine. Among about 300 subjects, those who exercised more reported higher quality and frequency of erections and greater overall sexual function scores. These men exercised for a weekly total of 18 metabolic equivalents, which is a function of both total times of exercise and intensity. This is equal to two hours of strenuous exercise, like running or swimming three-and-a-half hours of moderate exercise, or six hours of light exercise.