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What is a woman to do? Age, Sex, Menopause

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

There is a mistaken tendency to believe that age brings with it the end of sexual feelings and relations. Nothing could be further from the truth. Age brings with it changes in sexuality but not its end.

Women, by the time they reach the ages between 45 and 50 years old begin the process of Menopause. For some women the process may begin at a younger age and for others it may begin at an older age. Menopause refers to the rather sudden end of the menstrual cycle and with it the ability to procreate. Partly, these changes in the reproductive system are caused by the sudden decline in the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Men go through a somewhat similar process but less precipitous. As men age the levels of the male hormone gradually diminish so the men experience gradual but real changes in the intensity of their libido and readiness to have sexual relations.

None of these changes mean the sex is over for anyone and it is important for people to understand this in a world in which the population of people over fifty is increasing dramatically. Improved medical treatment, better nutrition, the use of exercise and better preventive methods for the major diseases such as cancer and heart disease, has increased the life span to eighty and ninety years of age. As long as people are healthy there is no reason why they should not continue to enjoy sexuality if they are so interested.

However, the ability to continue to enjoy sexual relations at older ages also means that people must understand what they are able to expect.

Menopause often brings with it a decrease in sexual desire for many women. Women remember the days of their earlier sexual exploits with boy friends and their husband but they may no longer experience the powerful drive that once dominated their lives. While older men can enhance their sexual responses with the new sexual enhancing medications such as Levitra, there is no equivalent medicine for women.

However, we know that much of sex in human beings is linked to attitudes and emotions. For example, depression diminishes the sex drive in men and women of very young ages. Older men and women, now retired, with children grown up and moved away and taking medications for a variety of ailments that come with age, may not feel very sexy. The accompanying drop in sexual relations often brings with it erectile difficulties and vaginal dryness.

Yet, there are plenty of older people who continue to have happy and fulfilling sex lives with their partners. What makes the difference? The article that the present post is based on was written in the AARP magazine (Association of Retired Persons) in October of 2007. In that article it is reported that many MD’s and therapists encourage their elderly patients to be more adventuresome with one another with the goal of having sexual relations. The idea is that soft lights, romantic dinners, hugging, touching and engaging in sexual play can make partners feel very good, leading to feelings of pleasure and even intercourse and orgasm. Things may take longer to work but they can still work.

Of course, remaining fit, having a healthy and balanced diet and getting adequate amounts of sleep all go a long ways towards enhancing life as well as sex.

Perhaps the real problem with the notion of older people continuing to have sex harkens back to Sigmund Freud and the Oedipal Conflict. In other words, the thought of our parents having sex feels so forbidden that we cannot allow ourselves to entertain the thought of any older person having sex, even when that older person is ourselves.

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