Sex and Aging: 8 Myths We Need to Abandon

December 08,2022 |
Man and woman sitting on a couch.

Our bodies change as we get older. It comes with the inevitable passage of time. Although there are several things that may come as an inconvenience, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t do the things you enjoy, especially when it comes to sex. While some people see this as a taboo subject, the culture surrounding physical intimacy has changed dramatically over the last decade and sexual health and enjoyment is no longer something you should feel like you need to hide. To help you embrace your sexuality and strengthen your physical connection with your partner, consider some of the most popular myths we need to abandon when it comes to sex and aging.


The 8 Most Common Myths About Sex and Aging

There are hundreds of different myths and stipulations circulating around the internet, but those associated with sexual health and aging seem to get a little extreme. From claims that aging bodies can’t physically handle the act of intimacy to (false) beliefs about what happens to genitalia as you age—we’ve heard it all. However, some of the discussions seem to continue to raise doubts. To help you better understand what’s true and what’s not, consider the following eight common myths about sex and aging debunked.

Myth 1: Women Lose Interest in Sex as They Age

For some reason, people tend to think that as women get older, all of their interest in sex goes out the window. Although menopause can bring about changes to vaginal dryness or atrophy, it doesn’t mean all interest has stopped. Unfortunately, these changes can lead to pain during intercourse if not addressed and treated. Luckily, there are countless products available to improve lubrication and even hormone medications to help with estrogen levels.

Myth 2: After 50, Men Can No Longer Perform

As men get older, they tend to be at a higher risk for erectile dysfunction. This is caused by a decline in testosterone levels. However, there are several treatment options that can help address the symptoms of erectile dysfunction or low testosterone and improve performance. Although the erection might not be the same as it was during early years of life, that doesn’t mean that men over 50 can’t perform at all. The important thing is talking to your doctor to determine the most effective treatment methods for your circumstance.

Myth 3: Having Sex Can Be Dangerous When You’re Older

Aging brings about several changes to your body, one of which is an increase in frailty. This is especially noticeable in adults who don’t get regular exercise, but that doesn’t mean that sex is dangerous. In fact, sex can have the opposite effect. Engaging in sexual activity can help keep your heart strong, lower your stress levels, and help you maintain a more positive outlook on life. There are several assistive devices and positions to help you enjoy a healthy sex life without putting yourself at risk for injury.

Myth 4: After Menopause, Women Don’t Get Aroused

Another common myth is that after women go through menopause, they won’t get aroused at all. As previously mentioned, a drop in estrogen levels can cause physical changes to the body that can make things uncomfortable, but arousal is still possible. However, it does require a few changes to your approach. Hormones are the driving factors behind orgasms and drive and with a decline in estrogen comes a decline in libido. However, this can also be impacted by medications, trauma, stress, a lack of emotional connection with your partner, and the physical changes in the vagina.

Arousal is still possible; it just takes a little more effort from both partners. Experts suggest trying to set the mood ahead of time to help yourself mentally prepare for sexual activity or using additional products to help enhance arousal. If you’re still struggling, there are also several sex therapists who specialize in helping older adults rediscover their bodies.

Myth 5: Older Adults Don’t Find Each Other Attractive

The media often ties beauty and age with desire. They make it seem like in order to enjoy sex, you have to look a certain way or be a certain age. However, physical appearance isn’t the only driving force behind attraction. Our bodies are chemically wired for sex and our brain is constantly releasing hormones that fuel desire, especially when you’re with someone you love and care about. Some of these chemicals include vasopressin, oxytocin, and dopamine. Although they can be released by the brain when you’re around someone you find physically attractive, they’re also released when you’re near someone you love or are mentally and emotionally connected to.

Additionally, the people we find attractive tend to change as we age. For the most part, whether you’re 16, 30, 50, or 80, you tend to be attracted to people who are around the same age as you. So, saying that older adults don’t find each other attractive is just nonsense.

Myth 6: Adults in Nursing Homes Should Avoid Sex

There is a mild stereotype that circulates the media about nursing homes and intimacy, especially in regard to safe sex. However, living in a nursing home shouldn’t mean giving up the things you enjoy, especially physical intimacy. Residents of nursing homes are guaranteed the right to privacy and respect, so facilities need to uphold these rights and make sure that the individuals living there have a high quality of life. This means they have the choice to engage in behaviors, like sex. As long as it’s consensual, and safe, there’s no reason for older adults in nursing homes to avoid sex.

Aging also increases the risk of developing a cognitive impairment like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they should avoid sex. The important part of supporting a healthy sex life in an elderly individual with dementia is to make sure that the risks and benefits are assessed on a case-by-case basis. If a resident with dementia expresses the desire to engage in physical intimacy, their care team should make assessments and decide whether it’s a good idea or not. This will need to occur upon every instance, since the dementia may mean they don’t recall the last occurrence.

Myth 7: Urologic Conditions Prevent Enjoyable Sex

An increased prevalence of several urologic conditions is also common in older adults, but there are several treatment options available to help manage symptoms. Although men or women who are experiencing things like urinary incontinence or increased urgency (i.e., overactive bladder) may not feel comfortable engaging in intercourse when they’re symptoms are present, urologists can help individuals regain control of their life with personalized treatment plans. If you’re experiencing any urologic condition, regardless of age, reach out to your doctor.

Myth 8: Older Adults Don’t Have Any Time for Sex

The older we get, the more responsibilities seem to come our way, but that doesn’t mean that every minute is accounted for. In fact, at a certain age it seems like all we have is time! Plus, engaging in sexual activity doesn’t usually take hours out of the day, so there’s no reason to associate age with the inability to schedule sex. The only reason you won’t have time for it is if you don’t make time.

As you age, it’s important to see the appropriate doctors along the way. As a female, you may want to see both a urologist and a gynecologist to ensure that you’re getting the care you need. Alternatively, you could also see a urogynecologist, which is a specialization that focuses on both the pelvic floor and the bladder. This can help you address any concerns you have with changes in your sex life or your arousal levels. Urogynecologists are trained to provide diagnostic testing, medications, injections, vaginal pessary, pelvic floor muscle training, nerve stimulation, surgery, and more. They can also help provide referrals for specialists who can help you better understand your body and sexual needs as you age. Men should regularly see their urologist, especially after the age of 40. This can help you treat any signs of erectile dysfunction or impotence. It also allows for urologic conditions to be treated, which can help you feel more confident in the bedroom.

There are several treatment options available for most urologic conditions. Although it may seem overwhelming at first, treatment can help you manage uncomfortable, embarrassing, or annoying symptoms so you can focus more on the intimate parts of life. To find more information on improving your urologic health, or for support of common urologic conditions, contact Byram Healthcare today.

Byram Healthcare is a member of the National Association for Continence’s Trusted Partners Program, whose mission is to provide quality continence care through education, collaboration and advocacy. We continue to build partnerships in the clinical community to ensure we focus on what’s best for the patient.