What’s sex really like for men when they reach a certain age? Is it all sitting in side-by-side bathtubs, holding hands with their partner as the sun sets on a beach? Well, probably not – but you probably already know that if you’re an older man feeling the affects of time on your sex life. So what is really going on in the sex lives of senior men, what should they expect as they age, and what can they do to improve things in the bedroom?
Are Older Men Still Interested – and Are They Getting Any?
Gone are the days of everyone just assuming that older people are not getting any sex, and that they’re also completely uninterested in it. We’ve finally come to realize that there is no age limit on sexuality, and that older people can have great sex lives, which is a very, very good thing. According to Erica Solway, co-director of the National Poll On Healthy Aging by the University of Michigan, “Sexual health among older adults doesn’t get much attention but is linked closely to quality of life, health, and well-being.”
So what do older men think about sex, and what do their sex lives look like? Before we get to the sexual problems that might change their sex lives, let’s look at what the above poll says about what’s going on in senior men’s sex lives. According to the poll, which asked adults ages 65-80 about relationship status, interest in sex, and level of sexual activity:
- 50% of men reported being extremely or very interested in sex, compared to 12% of women
- 51% of men were sexually active, compared with 31% of women
That a full half of older men in this survey are both interested in sex and having it, definitely proves that, according to the poll, “While sex is an integral part of the lives of many older adults, this topic remains understudied and infrequently discussed.” And that means that, while there are a lot of older men out there with a desire for sex, they might also be frustrated by changes to their sexual health, and unsure what to do about it. So what changes as men get older, and why?
Why Things Might Not Be Working Like They Used To
There’s no denying that our bodies change in, well, a whole lot of ways as we age. From aches and pains to even loss of taste, things can just start to feel frustratingly different. And the same goes for sexuality. Older women have their own set of challenges when it comse to sex, but so do men. For example, two very enlightening Australian studies found that men face a lot of sexual challenges as they age. One found that, among over 3,000 older men, the following sexual issues were problems that were upsetting for the participants:
- Lack of interest: 48% (24% for partnered participants)
- Erectile dysfunction (ED) 49% (66% for partnered participants)
- Premature ejaculation 15% (26% for partnered participants)
- Difficulty ejaculating 39% (43% for partnered participants)
- Performance anxiety 20% (37% for partnered participants)
- Low testosterone 7%
The other study found that
- Low desire was a major problem, reported by 89% of single older men, and 33% of those with partners
- ED was a major problem, reported by 91% of the men (mild-to-moderate ED, 54%, moderate-to-severe ED, 37%)
So what’s going on down there? Why aren’t things working like they used to? Well, while we usually just chalk it up to aging, in some cases, there are concrete, physical risk factors for low libido and erectile problems. And, no, it’s not usually low testosterone, whatever those commercials try to tell us! The studies found that the risk factors for low libido included anxiety, depression, insomnia, a sedentary lifestyle, and drinking more than two alcoholic drinks a day.
The risk factors for ED included even more physical things, and were not generally psychological, which might surprise some people – yes, changes to your erection as you age are very real, and aren’t all in your head. Some of the main risk factors in these studies included:
anxiety, depression, diabetes, insomnia, cancer, smoking, obesity (especially potbelly), taking high blood pressure medication, drinking more than two alcoholic drinks a day, and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Sounds a little depressing, right? So what are men doing about it? And are there ways to put the oomph back into your sex life?
Are Older Men Seeking, uh, Help?
Let’s go back to the beginning of this article, and that image of an older couple sitting side-by-side in bathtubs on the beach. Ridiculous, right? Well, that image of happy, satisfied sexuality is what medications for erectile dysfunction are trying to promote, but are older men buying it, literally?
It might feel like those drugs are everywhere, and every older man is popping them to get things popping in the bedroom, but the numbers just don’t support that. Not only that, but when men do try them, they’re not necessarily blown away by them. Check out these stats:
- No more than 20% of men over 60 have tried erection medication, let alone become regular users.
- The effectiveness of these drugs might actually be exaggerated, especially for men over 60. In pre-approval trials, pharmaceutical companies claimed that around 70% of users would be able to get erections sufficient for intercourse. But several recent studies conclude it’s closer to 50%, with effectiveness declining with age, especially in those over 60.
- The drugs improve blood flow into the penis but do nothing for libido and arousal, which become increasingly problematic for men over 65.
- ED drugs seem to have more side effects than they were supposed to: post-approval studies have documented persistent annoying side effects in around 40% of users. Side effects increase with the dosage, and since most men over 65 must take high doses, it’s not a surprise that older men aren’t all that jazzed about these drugs. In fact, only around half of all men refill their prescriptions, and only a minority of elder men.
Ok, so maybe drugs aren’t necessarily the answer for a lot of older men, whether it’s ED medications or those testosterone boosting supplements. But maybe that’s ok. Yes, your body is changing, and maybe your penis just isn’t cooperating like it used to, even if you’re following all the “rules” and trying to delay sexual issues with a healthy lifestyle. Buuuuut maybe that just means you need to change, too. You might need to change the way you think about sex as you age, knowing that the penis-in-vagina sex that seemed like the end all be all in your youth is not necessarily what it’s all about these days.
What You Can Do to Spice Things Up
Remember the sex of your youth? There’s no denying it was probably pretty fun, right? But then look at it this way: did you ever feel like there was a mismatch with your partner? You were so hot to trot that things went pretty fast, and she was probably just warming up by the time you were done. Now things are different. You might need more time, and you can both slow down and really enjoy your erotic time together (especially since you probably have more time now!).
So what are some ways you can make sex better now that you’re older? Consider the following:
- Focus on the mental side – Older men go through ups and downs when it comes to desire, so if you’re in a slump try focusing on the mental side of sex. Talk about fantasies, memories that turn you on, and other erotic thoughts. This can help your mind and body get back in sexual sync.
- Embrace “outercourse” – Remember what your sex life was like when your partner was new to you, or when you were young and were not always having vaginal intercourse? You could probably have spent days in bed exploring your partner’s body – so get back to that! You’ve got the time now, so instead of fretting over difficulties with penis-vagina sex, slow down and make sex more about leisurely, playful, whole-body touch: kissing, cuddling, mutual total-body massage, genital hand massage, oral sex, and sex toys (with plenty of lubricant).
- Bring the romance back – Most couples need some sense of excitement and novelty to be both mentally and physically stimulated. Try some date nights where you try something new together, or go away for a sexy spontaneous weekend to reconnect.
- Know what you’re capable of – Worried that you’re doomed to never having mind-blowing orgasms again because things have gotten so unreliable downstairs? It’s not true! Men don’t actually need to get a full erection to have an amazing orgasm. Even if you’re penis is semi-hard (or even flaccid), with enough attention, like fellatio and penile massage (and an erotic setting doesn’t hurt), you can still make the earth move.
- Talk to your doctor – According to the poll we looked at, a lot of older adults are actually willing to talk to their doctors about their sexual concerns. Don’t be afraid to do just that, especially if you think your erectile issues could be related to something physical.
Sex is just one of those things that is endlessly interesting to humans – but it can be endlessly frustrating when things aren’t working as they used to. But just because things are changing doesn’t mean that this chapter of your life is over. Talk to your partner, talk to your doctor, and, hey, even talk to yourself, because sometimes it’s a matter of changing your perspective. If you’re still interested in sex, know that you can still have a fulfilling sex life at any age. Let us know what you think!
Co-written by Joanna Bowling