Judging from the images the popular media puts forth, you’d think sex was only for twenty somethings. Nothing is further from the truth. Sex at midlife and beyond is a subject mired in confusion and misinformation. Here are some common myths, and the straight story about sex after 50.
Fiction: Beyond a certain age, people have little interest in sex.
Fact: There is no age limit on sexuality, but for people age 50 and over, sexual satisfaction depends more on the overall quality of the relationship than it does for younger couples. A National Council on Aging survey reports that among people age 60 and over who have regular intercourse, 74 percent of the men and 70 percent of the women find their sex lives more satisfying than when they were in their forties.
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Fiction: As a man ages, he loses his ability to get an erection.
Fact: Aging itself is not a cause of erectile dysfunction. However, diminishing hormone levels do precipitate some changes. A man may need more physical stimulation to become aroused, and his erection may not be quite as firm as when he was younger — but sex is no less pleasurable. While a 25-year-old man might be able to get a second erection as quickly as fifteen minutes after an ejaculation, a 50-year-old man might need several hours.
Fiction: Emotional and psychological factors are responsible for a woman’s lack of interest in sex at midlife and beyond.
Fact: Physical factors can play an even larger role. Hormonal changes at menopause can affect a woman’s sexual response. Low estrogen levels can result in vaginal dryness, causing discomfort during sex. And in some women, lower testosterone levels can mean a lack of energy and a weaker sex drive. Other women find their interest in sex increases after menopause, due, in part, to a shift in the ratio of testosterone to estrogen and progesterone.
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