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Sex Education for Older Adults

by Leona Small

Let’s talk about sex. Specifically, sex for older adults.

In a world where conversations about sex education often focus on younger adults, there exists a crucial and often overlooked demographic seeking guidance — the older adults. As society ages, the need for comprehensive and age-appropriate sex education for this demographic becomes increasingly evident.

This article delves into the importance of addressing sexual health and well-being in older adults, exploring the unique challenges they may face, and shedding light on the benefits of providing tailored education to promote healthy relationships, informed decision-making, and overall well-rounded aging.

sexual health education article feature image of two older adults embracing on the beach

Sex Ed and the Aging Population

As we get older, our body changes, as do our sexual desires and abilities.

However, there are plenty of options for older adults regarding spicing things up in the bedroom. True intimacy and long-term relationships often go hand-in-hand, as more time spent together typically means a closer, more honest, loving, and trusted connection between two people.

While it is true that long-term relationships sometimes lose their ‘spark’, we believe there is a surefire path towards a fulfilling, sexually active experience in the bedroom no matter one’s age as long as the partners are willing to communicate, learn, and try new things openly.

an unmade bed suggesting the presence of sexually active partners or sexual intimacy

As reported by Eyes Open Iowa, “According to the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project survey of more than 3,000 people between the ages of 57 and 85, approximately 75 percent of people between 57 and 64 reported being sexually active. More than half of people between 65 and 74 reported being sexually active, and more than a quarter of those 75-85 reported being sexually active. And yet, the sexual health needs of older adults are often overlooked.”

Why is this? To start, things change over time, including our bodies and physical capabilities, which isn’t always a fun topic to address.

Understanding the Physical Changes that Occur with Age

As individuals age, they undergo a myriad of physical changes that can significantly impact their sexual health and well-being, ultimately impacting their sexual pleasure. Understanding these changes is a fundamental component of sex education for older adults. Hormonal shifts, changes in muscle tone, and alterations in circulation can all influence sexual function. Additionally, addressing common age-related conditions such as arthritis, cardiovascular issues, cognitive impairment, and hormonal imbalances leading to things like vaginal dryness and lower testosterone levels becomes crucial for fostering a positive and fulfilling sexual experience in later years.

By exploring and learning about the intricacies of these physical transformations, older adults can empower themselves to adapt, communicate openly with partners, and make informed decisions to maintain a satisfying and healthy sexual life well into their later years.

sexually active sexual partners engaging in sexual intimacy via touch and a kiss on the shoulder

Communicating with Healthcare Providers About Sexual Health

Open communication with healthcare providers discussing sexual health is paramount for older adults seeking comprehensive and personalized care. Many individuals, specifically older women, may feel hesitant or uncomfortable broaching the subject, but addressing sexual health concerns with healthcare professionals can lead to improved overall well-being and quality of life.

Health care providers are well-equipped to discuss a range of topics around sexual health and sexual problems, including changes in libido, sexual function, erectile dysfunction, the possibility of sexually transmitted infections and/or sexually transmitted diseases, safe sex practices, and any concerns related to intimacy. Many physicians can also suggest treatment options and modifications to sexual positions and activities, and provide recommendations for sex therapists when appropriate.

an open conversation with a health care provider discussing sexual health issues such as sexually transmitted infections, erectile dysfunction, sexual pleasure, and other sexual concerns

Establishing a trusting and open dialogue allows for the identification of potential underlying sexual health issues and facilitates the development of tailored solutions or interventions. By breaking down barriers and initiating conversations about sexual health, older adults can foster a collaborative and supportive relationship with their healthcare providers, ensuring a holistic approach to care that encompasses every aspect of their well-being.

Sex Therapists

A Sex Therapist is a licensed professional who typically uses talk therapy to help individuals or couples with the mental or emotional aspects of sex-related issues.

This article written by the Cleveland Clinic provides more information on what a sex therapist does and how they may be able to help resolve sexual difficulties, such as performance anxiety, intimacy issues, or negative attitudes around sexuality in general.

Additional Resources Around Sex Education for Older Adults

Finding helpful, informative, and realistic information focused on sexual education for older adults can be difficult.

However, there are numerous organizations devoted to assisting older adults seeking information on sexuality, sex education, and intimacy as we age, and we’ve listed many of them below. Among these resources are books, podcasts, toys, and websites to turn to for additional information, all of which are written or hosted by experts on this subject.

a healthcare provider discussing sexual behavior and sexual relationships in older patients on a video call, while holding a sex toy to increase sexual desire in partners

Books

Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex

Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Price, Joan (Author)

Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Lasting Relationship by Stephen Snyder M.D.

Sale
Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Lasting Relationship
  • Snyder M.D., Stephen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Come As You Are: Revised and Updated: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski Ph.D.

Sex Talks: The Five Conversations That Will Transform Your Love Life by Vanessa Marin

The Sex Bible For People Over 50: The Complete Guide to Sexual Love for Mature Couples by Laurie Betito

Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk About Sex After Sixty by Joan Price

Sex After Seventy: It Gets Better: The Detailed Sex Guide for Mature Thinking Adults and for Seniors by James A. Grant

Podcasts

Everything you need to know to have a thriving, nourishing sex life as you age—whatever that means for you. This series is dedicated to helping older people find their way to a healthy and enjoyable sex life, and at the time this article was published in early 2024, there were 73 episodes to explore and listen to!

Laura Collins Lyster-Mensh, writer and blogger, talked with experts for 33 episodes on sex and sexuality and interviewed people around the world on the topic of sex over 50.

Dr. Emily Morse shares her expertise on sex, relationships, and everything in between! There are over 1300 episodes (and counting!) in her archive, and many have a focus on enjoying sex in your later years.

This is a single episode titled ‘Interview: Better Sex in Later Life’

She’s a sex therapist with over 20 years of experience, and he’s a regular dude. While their audience is primarily younger, mid-life adults, their podcast (and website!) is full of practical, helpful, creative ideas to recharge your sex life with a focus on healthy and open communication. They’ve currently shared tips in over 130 episodes, with new episodes released every week.

Toys

a variety of sex toys to keep sexually active partners entertained and happy with their overall sexual wellbeing and sexual expression

As it turns out, we’ve already written an article on this exact topic. Behold, a list of sex toys for seniors and the associated sextech specifically with older adults in mind.

The article above has plenty of product links, all available for easy purchase on Amazon. Enjoy!

Online Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

the word 'sex' spelled out using red spicy chili peppers

Which are the best sex positions for seniors?

We happen to have already written a top-performing article on this topic, too! Check out our article titled Top 9 Best Sex Positions for Seniors, written by Mal Harrison who is a certified clinical sexologist.

How often do adults over the age of 60 have sex?

Sexual activity among adults over the age of 60 varies widely and is influenced by numerous factors, including individual health, relationship status, and personal preferences. Research suggests that a significant number of older adults continue to engage in sexual activity, however it can be hard to find exact, accurate data on this topic. According to Hims, “By age 65, most people have sex around 20 times per year, or less than one time every two weeks.”

How do I increase my sex drive as an older adult?

Increasing sex drive in older adults involves addressing various factors that can influence libido.

Some general suggestions that may help include: maintaining overall health, staying mentally healthy, openly communicating with your partner, considering hormone levels, medication review, experimenting with sensual activities, educating yourself using our list of suggestions above, and of course, visiting a healthcare professional if you’re experiencing a significant and persistent decrease in libido as they can help identify any underlying health issues and provide guidance on appropriate interventions.

two older adults engaging in physical intimacy via watching a movie together on the couch

Final Thoughts

As our population ages, fostering a comprehensive understanding of the physical, emotional, and relational aspects of sexual health becomes essential. Breaking down societal taboos and embracing open communication about sexual well-being empowers older individuals to navigate the unique challenges that come with aging.

By addressing issues such as physical changes, communication with healthcare providers, and strategies to enhance libido, we pave the way for a more inclusive and fulfilling approach to sexual health in later years. Recognizing the diversity of experiences among older adults and promoting a culture of openness ensures that everyone has the knowledge and support needed to maintain a satisfying and healthy sex life throughout the aging process.

two adults of older age enjoying healthy relationships with each other while adventuring together on a boat

Remember that individual experiences with sex drive vary, and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s crucial to approach this topic with an open mind and seek personalized advice from healthcare professionals as needed to address your specific needs and concerns.

Is there anything you’d like to see added to this list of educational resources? Have you found any of the information above helpful or useful? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author

Leona Small is a freelance writer and former caregiver. She has experience working with people with Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias and has spent years working alongside both patients and caregivers in Hospice. Additionally, she’s worked as a Professional Organizer helping people and families to purge, organize, manage, and prepare for various life transitions such as moving, downsizing, and the passing of loved ones. Her passions include writing about healthy aging, innovative resources to help older adults and caregivers, and traveling.

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