It’s not just a “young man’s fancy” that turns to love; it’s people of all ages, including older adults, who also want to enjoy the benefits of romance. Interestingly, as the Woodstock and “free love” generation is reaching Medicare status, sociologists, marketers and even healthcare providers are noting that what many want from love as they age may have changed a bit over the years. Today, older adults – whether in long-term monogamous relationships or newly widowed or divorced –are seeking connections that will help support and nurture them throughout the aging process. While sex is certainly a part of a fulfilling relationship – meaningful relationships for seniors do require much more. Here are 5 tips on how to bring more love into your life as you age:
Maintain friendships. Many older adults lose connections with friends, family and colleagues as they age or after the kids are out of the home. Now is the time to renew past relationships and
Explore something new. Studies show that older adults have tremendous capacity to learn new things – and more importantly to bring their years of experience to new activities. Finding something new to do – on your own or with your significant other – expands your horizons and brings new topics and ideas to discuss in all your relationships.
Focus on your health. Whether it’s improving your self-image or better managing an existing health condition, when you are focused on your health, you will feel physically and emotionally better – and will be better prepared to take on new experiences.
Remember you are never too old to connect with someone new. Don’t be afraid to start a new relationship. A relationship doesn’t have to be romantic. Friendships can bring tremendous joy and comfort as we age. Every new connection you make (or old one you renew) has value.
Talk to your spouse or significant other. He or she may be feeling the same things you are and be just as unsure on how to bring up topics related to love and sex. Perhaps a date night or cuddling will bring renewed feelings.
I frequently give seminars on love, sex and aging and I am always reminded about how important love and relationships remain to older adults. I also know many are often unsure of where to start, especially when it comes to the sexual element of a relationship. When you’re in the mood, it’s a sure bet that the last thing on your mind is boosting your immune system or maintaining a healthy weight. Yet good sex offers those health benefits and more. So, to really take a look at how our sexuality adds to our life and enhances our life and our health, both physical and psychological, is eye-opening for many people. Here are a few health benefits to keep in mind:
Sex boosts immunity – Good sexual health may mean better physical health. Having sex once or twice a week has been linked with higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A or IgA, which can protect you from getting colds and other infections.
Sex counts as exercise – The benefits of sex as a form of exercise are many – sex can improve your cardiovascular fitness, strength, flexibility, and balance, not to mention your emotional health. In fact, thirty minutes of sex burns 85 calories or more. It may not sound like much, but it adds up.
Sex is something that has new meaning as you age due to physical and emotional changes that occur during the aging process plus your general lifestyle that could have effects as well. These changes may affect your ability to have and enjoy sex. Here are 6 tips to ensure you don’t let anything get in the way of your libido:
Get a handle on your stress – You may be the kind of person who works well under stress. But feeling sexy isn’t likely to be one of them. Job stress, money troubles, caring for a sick family member, and other stressors can decrease libido. To keep your stress levels in check, learn helpful stress management techniques or seek the advice of a counselor or doctor.
Resolve those issues – Unresolved relationship problems are one of the most common killers of sex drive. For women in particular, emotional closeness is a major ingredient in sexual desire. Simmering arguments, poor communication, betrayal of trust, and other barriers to intimacy can steer your sex drive off the road.
Cut down on those bad habits – Alcohol famously makes you feel less inhibited about sex, but it can also numb your sex drive so it’s best to cut back on drinking or altogether for an improved sex drive. On that same note, stopping your smoking habit altogether is clearly a good idea since smoking will increase the risk of erectile dysfunction (ED) by about 50 percent in men once they hit their 30’s, let alone later on in life.
Track those medications – There are many prescription medications that are linked to low sex drive that include antidepressants, blood pressure medications, antihistamines and many more. Changing a medication or taking a different dosage may solve the problem. If your sex drive shifted into park soon after beginning a new medication, its best to talk with your doctor.
Testosterone changes – Testosterone is responsible for sex drive. However, as men age, their testosterone levels may decline. It’s important to note that not all men lose the desire for sex when their testosterone levels drop — but many do. Older men (an estimated 18-30 million of them) may also find themselves suffering fromED which occurs when a man cannot get or maintain an erection 75% of the time that they attempt sex. Unfortunately, some men are reluctant or embarrassed to discuss sexual matters with their doctor, but with open communication, men suffering from ED can discuss the condition and more importantly options. Steps that can improve sexual function include lifestyle changes, surgery, shots, and oral medications.
Menopause – About half of women report reduced sex drive around the time of menopause. Menopausal symptoms, such as vaginal dryness and pain during sex, may make sex less comfortable. An aging woman concerned about her sex drive and maintaining intimacy with her partner should also consider the quality of her relationship, her body image and self esteem, medications she is taking, and her physical health. All of these factors could affect a healthy sex life. For more insights into the physical conditions affecting sexual health and the best options for you to relieve menopause symptoms, talk to your doctor.
Sex and love are an instrumental part of any relationship and as you reach your 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and beyond, that does not change. Don’t settle for a so-so relationship or sex life, now is the time to enjoy yourself. My last tip is not to be afraid or embarrassed to speak with your partner and physician to find out more about how to bring and keep sex and love in your life, as you age.
Dr. Smith is the Chief Medical Officer for Inter Valley Health Plan, a not-for-profit Medicare Advantage Health Plan serving Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, and North Orange County. With eleven Medicare and Information Centers across Southern California, Inter Valley Health Plan is dedicated to keeping its members healthy and strong and delivering highly personalized service to the Medicare-eligible community. Inter Valley hosts free classes at its Medicare and Information Centers on topics ranging from personal finance, health, fitness, lifestyle and much more – all specific to the older adult community. For more information on classes, please visit www.ForHealthandLiving.com and to learn more about Inter Valley’s Medicare plans, please visit: www.IVHP.com