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How does ageing impact our sexual desires?

How does ageing impact our sexual desires?

As we age, our bodies undergo a myriad of changes that can affect intimacy, sexual experiences and desire. These changes are a natural part of life, and understanding them can help maintain a healthy and fulfilling sex life throughout different stages of life.

Changes that come naturally.

  1. Hormonal shifts: Hormonal changes play a significant role in how our bodies respond to intimacy and sex as we age. In women ¹, menopause typically results in a decrease in estrogen levels, which can lead to vaginal dryness and discomfort during intercourse. In men ², testosterone levels gradually decline with age, which can affect libido and erectile function. These are a totally normal part of life.
  2. Physical changes: Aging can bring about various physical changes that impact sexual function. For instance, both men and women may experience a decrease in muscle tone and flexibility, which can influence sexual positions and stamina. Regular physical activity and exercises that improve flexibility and strength can help maintain sexual health and enjoyment.
  3. Changes in sensation: As we age, changes in blood flow and nerve sensitivity can alter sexual sensation. Women might experience changes in clitoral and vaginal sensitivity, while men may notice differences in penile sensitivity. Dr. Emily Nagoski, a sex educator and author of Come As You Are, emphasizes the importance of exploring new ways to experience pleasure and communicating openly with partners about these changes.

And now the emotional and psychological changes.

  1. Body image: Aging often brings changes in body image, which can impact self-esteem and sexual confidence. Embracing these changes and fostering a positive body image is crucial. According to Dr. Brené Brown, a researcher on vulnerability and self-worth, practicing self-compassion and focusing on the strengths and beauty of the aging body can enhance sexual confidence and intimacy.
  2. Stress and mental health: Stress, anxiety, and mental health issues can affect sexual desire and performance at any age, but they can become more pronounced with aging. Maintaining open communication with your partner and seeking professional help when needed are vital steps in managing these challenges. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques, such as those advocated by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, can also help reduce stress and improve overall well-being.
  3. Evolving dynamics: Long-term relationships can undergo significant changes as partners age together. Maintaining intimacy requires effort and communication. Dr. John Gottman, a leading researcher on relationships, suggests that regularly engaging in meaningful conversations, expressing appreciation, and dedicating time for intimacy can strengthen the bond between partners.

How do we maintain great sex as we age?

  1. Communication is key: Open and honest communication with your partner about desires, needs, and any changes you’re experiencing is crucial. This can help both partners adapt and find new ways to connect intimately.
  2. Explore new techniques and experiences: As our bodies change, so too can our sexual preferences and needs. Be open to exploring new types of intimacy, positions, and methods of stimulation that may be more comfortable and pleasurable.
  3. Seek professional guidance: If you encounter persistent issues with sexual function or desire, consulting a healthcare provider or a sex therapist can provide valuable insights and solutions. Medications, therapy, and other treatments are available to address a wide range of sexual health concerns.

Aging brings about inevitable changes in our bodies that can impact intimacy and sex, but these changes do not have to diminish the quality of our sexual lives. By understanding and adapting to these changes, maintaining open communication with partners, and seeking professional advice when necessary. Prioritise self-care, mutual respect, and emotional connection are key to navigating the evolving landscape of intimacy with grace and confidence.

“Love rests on two pillars: surrender and autonomy. Our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness.”

 Esther Perel

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