Senior sex: Romance, Act Two

Canadians enjoy intimacy well into their golden years. As more and more people are realizing, sex and romance don't stop after 60... or 70, 80, or 90. The question is, how do you keep the passion blazing as time goes by?

In 2004, AARP (a non-profit organization for people over the age of 50 that provides information and services about issues important to this age group) conducted a sex survey among 1,682 Americans over 45 years of age from across the US. It found that this demographic is enjoying "a second sexual revolution." More than half of those surveyed agreed that sexual activity is critical to a relationship and important for good quality of life. About one-third of respondents, or about half of those with regular sexual partners, have intercourse once a week or more. The study authors also noted that, compared to AARP's first sex survey in 1999, more respondents said they sought sex information from healthcare professionals, health magazines, and other sources, and that the use of sex medicines, hormones, or other treatments has "grown tremendously." Overwhelmingly, survey respondents declared that sex is not just for the young.

While that's true, sex won't be the same as when we were young. As we age, our bodies change, and that can affect our sexuality. Both men and women may take longer to become aroused, and may find they have less stamina. It can also take longer to feel satisfied. The hormonal changes of menopause can cause vaginal dryness or discomfort in women. Men may find their erections aren't as firm or large, and orgasms are less intense. Rather than give up on sex, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about treatment options, such as lubricants for women and medication for men.

There are other reasons that sex may become more challenging, such as a new disability or health problem, lack of self-confidence, or the side effects of prescription medications. Explore ways to reduce the impact of these factors, whether it's talking to your doctor about switching drugs, treating an underlying health issue, or having an honest discussion with your partner about your changing needs and abilities.

It's also good to be open-minded - try new positions or having sex at the time of day you have the most energy, for example. Remember that sex is not only about intercourse, and intimacy is not just about sex. There are other ways to satisfy yourself and your partner and bring you closer together.

While the notion of sex for life is a tantalizing one, there is one warning you should heed. All this pleasurable activity among older adults has resulted in a not-so-sexy problem: an increase in sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, among American seniors. Age does not make you immune to STIs. According to Health Canada, about 10% of those who test positive for AIDS are 50 or older.

Find out your status - get tested for HIV. Talk to your doctor about sexually transmitted infections. If you are becoming intimate with a new partner, use protection. After all, you don't want anything to get in the way of the rest of your sex life!

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