Growing older does not have to mean an end to your sexuality and enjoying the desire to have an active, satisfying sex life. The need for feelings of closeness and love are still there. Many older couples can and do have a fulfilling and pleasurable sexual relationship.
But aging can bring about physical or mental changes not present years ago. Recognizing the difference between normal changes from aging and changes due to a chronic disease and then taking steps to make modifications, can stoke the sexual fire within from going out completely.
Both men and women will have normal bodily changes as the decades go by. Men can experience impotence or erectile dysfunction where he loses his ability to achieve or maintain an erection. Another normal change for men is sometimes the erection he does achieve will not be as firm or large like it once was.
Women may notice several changes starting around the time of perimenopause involving the vagina. Changes in the vagina can include less lubrication, the vaginal walls becoming thinner and more narrow all making sex more uncomfortable leading to less desire for it.
Anytime a man or woman experiences these physical changes, it warrants a trip to the doctor's office to talk about these issues before they completely shut down your sex life.
Changes due to disease conditions
Another area affecting sex during later life can be the issue of different diseases you now have at this stage of your life. Is having a sex life possible and how can it be done?
Arthritis -- The ability to enjoy sex when suffering from painful joints isn't easy but it can be accomplished. The key is to relieve the pain as much as possible before getting into bed. Try taking a warm bath before bedtime, or using over-the-counter medications for pain relief, or sometimes trying out new sexual positions to see what works best.
Incontinence -- The accidental or involuntary loss of urine can be a real sex killer. Women are more prone to this than men so if she has extra pressure on her abdomen, like during the missionary position, she is more likely to have a loss of urine. Changing positions is the best method of avoiding this situation. Incontinence can be treated so visiting the doctor can address this problem.
Depression -- As we age, depression is common in older adults for various reasons -- chronic pain, physical disability, dementia, prescription drugs, and loss of loved ones over the years. Enjoyment of sex and intimacy often is lacking. To break out of the mental haze of depression, seek help from your doctor as it can be treated.
Diabetes -- Both men and women can be affected sexually if diagnosed with diabetes. For men, it can increase the likelihood of erectile dysfunction which can be helped with medications. Women with diabetes also are affected by having increased vaginal yeast infections causing itching and irritation making sex less desirable. Medications can also treat yeast infections.
Heart disease and stroke -- Having a heart attack may make a person anxious of having another if they have sex. Also having a history of a heart attack can affect men in achieving an erection and both men and women in reaching an orgasm. In both situations, always discuss with your doctor of your concerns.
Depending on the severity of a stroke will determine if and how if may affect your sex life. If a person has continual weakness or paralysis from a stroke, start slowly. Try massaging and exploring what feels good. If paralysis is involved experiment with touch of what areas feel sensation. Weakness on one side of the body means finding a more comfortable position -- maybe a side-lying position or having your partner on top.
Surgery -- All couples should inquire about when it is safe for sex after a surgery. Depending on the type of surgery, it could be the day after or several weeks or months before it is advisable. Usually when a doctor says "you should be able to return to your normal activities in..." this typically includes sex.
But let pain be your guide and if there is pain involved when attempting sex then you are probably not ready yet. Again, seeking the advice of your doctor when these situations arise can help determine when sex is safe to resume after surgery.
A healthy active sex life can be extended well into later in life. Even though physical problems or disease situations may interrupt intimacy at times, it does not have to end discovering new ways of closeness -- hugging, kissing, touching, and just spending time together can bring about a deeper affection for one another making the relationship flourish.
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel's Medical A-Team Learn more at roboticoncology.com. Visit Dr. Samadi's blog at SamadiMD.com. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest and Facebook.