Sexy Seniors

By Reuel S. Amdur, M.S.W.

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Do senior citizens do “it?” According to Dr. Nathalie Gamache, a gynecologist at the Shirley Greenberg Women’s Health Centre of the Ottawa Hospital, “Age should never be a limiting factor in sexuality and intimacy.” Or, as nurse Carmen Rodrigue put it, “We are all sexual beings.”

How people express their sexuality depends on many factors - culture, values and beliefs, for example. Remember, the youth of the swinging '60s are now seniors.

Other factors affecting one's sex life include medical and drug issues. General physical health comes into play, along with fatigue and stress. As well, depression can lower sex drive. But, on the other hand, so can anti-depressants. Alcohol has the familiar paradoxical effect: it increases the desire but lessens the ability, especially for men. Hormonal changes, including menopause, also have an impact on sexual desire and ability to perform and enjoy sex.

Sexuality is generally thought of as being genital, but it is much, much more. Humans' most powerful sex organ is the brain. Sexual expression is also related to self-image and feelings toward the partner. Human sexuality can include touching, cuddling, closeness, tenderness, warmth, emotional support and companionship. “Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am” can be a real turnoff. Good sex can take time.

Intercourse is different for older people. Arousal takes longer and requires more stimulation. Men’s erections are less firm and of shorter duration. There is sometimes a need to call on help from pharmacology. Some doctors recommend vitamin E. Testosterone can often help, but people need to get beyond the bad reputation testosterone has received because of its illegitimate misuse by some athletes. When used under medical supervision, in much smaller doses than athletes take, it is safe. Then, of course, there are Viagra and its cousins.

In women, sensitivity of the erogenous zones decreases with age. Vaginal dryness may also occur. Dr. Gamache cautions about what to use in case of dryness. A water-soluble lubricant, like Replens, is recommended. If in doubt, ask the pharmacist.

Seniors are not immune to sexually transmitted diseases. A frank conversation with the other person about sexual history is good practise. In the heat of the moment, however, that kind of discussion tends to slip away. Consequently, if in doubt about a partner’s sexual health, use a condom. That, too, can be a bit tricky because of the limited ability of many older men to maintain a firm erection.

If a lack of libido is the problem, talk to a doctor. It may be a symptom of some other underlying health issue. If there are no health issues and the desire exists, go for it! Have fun and stay safe!



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