SEXUAL WELLBEING FOR OLDER PEOPLE

Things inevitably change as you get older, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop having sex and intimate relationships.

Many people enjoy an active sex life well into later life with some couples reporting that sex gets better with age. However, sexual desires and appetite for sex can change over the years and for many reasons and there's no right or wrong level of sexual activity at any age.

Changes in sexual desire

Ageing causes many normal changes in the body, some of which may affect your sexual desire or libido. Loss of sex drive or lack of libido can be down to any number of factors including physical – such as poor health or the side effects of medication - and psychological – like relationship issues, stress and anxiety. However, there are plenty of ways to enjoy non-penetrative sex by:

  • Enjoying all the feelings of arousal with your partner, not just the orgasm
  • Taking time to be more sensual and caressing
  • Telling each other what you like and how you like to be touched

For more advice read Keeping the passion alive Keeping the passion alive and for an inspiring blog on ageing visit grandmawilliams.com.

More about sexual health for older people

Anything that exercises your heart is good for you, including sex. Sexual arousal sends the heart rate higher, and the number of beats per minute reaches its peak during orgasm and some studies have shown the average peak heart rate at orgasm is the same as during light exercise, such as walking upstairs. It has also been suggested that there's also a link between how often you have sex and how strong your immune system is.

Starting a new relationship later in life can be daunting, but it can also be exciting.

If you've lost a long-term partner, you may feel guilty about getting close to someone else and starting a sexual relationship.

If you've recently been divorced, you may feel angry so avoid jumping into a new relationship before you've dealt with your feelings around ending the old one. Take it slow and start with whatever feels comfortable for you and talking about your feelings may help, whether it's with your new partner, a GP, a relationship counsellor or a psycho-sexual therapist.

Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among older people are on the rise and some STIs don't always have obvious symptoms. An STI can be passed from one person to another through sexual contact including vaginal, anal and oral sex and you can get or pass on an STI no matter who you're having sex with – they can pass between men and women, women and women, and men and men.

Condoms are the most effective form of contraception that will help to protect you from STIs and if you've just started a new relationship or are beginning to date again, consider carrying condoms with you. Don't be afraid to bring up the subject of condoms yourself.

For more information on safer sex for same-sex partners, see Lesbian sexual health and Sexual health for gay and bisexual men.

If you’re worried, find out about STI symptoms and where to go for help if you're worried.

Sexual help

Female Sexual Help

Good sexual health is important for overall health and wellbeing. Safer sex (using a condom) helps to reduce the risks of picking up or passing on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and from unwanted pregnancy. Around half of older women are estimated to be affected by some form of female sexual dysfunction. Lots of us will have problems with sex or relationships from time to time and help, treatment and support is available.

Find out more

Male Sexual Help

Good sexual health is important for overall health and wellbeing. Safer sex (using a condom) helps to reduce the risks of picking up or passing on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and from unwanted pregnancy. It’s very common for men to experience sexual problems. Around 1 in 10 men have an issue with sex and performance at some point in their lives. Problems can be short lived or long-term, and can affect any man, whether he is gay, straight, bisexual or transgender. Lots of us will have problems with sex or relationships from time to time and help, treatment and support is available.

Find out more

Support for you

These organisations can help with issues with sex and relationships as you get older:

Age UK

Sex and Arthritis

FPA: the sexual advice charity

Relate

Sexual Advice Association

College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists