Seniors also have an active sex life. But this topic is taboo because, socially, erotic practices and the experience of pleasure are related to the reproductive age. Today, we will leave these barriers behind and talk about sexuality in adulthood.
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Use it or lose it
There is a general rule for this issue, which is: use it or lose it, explains sexology doctor, Armando Escalante. “The more regular the sexual activity, the greater the probability of maintaining sexual function into old age. On the other hand, if sexual activity is not regular, it can lead to loss of function,” he says.
Sex plays an important role in mental and physical health and in the quality of life at any age. As the years go by, age-related changes can interfere with pleasure; but an older adult can enjoy this activity if they take advice from experts in sexual health and nutrition.
It is true that from adulthood (35-40), the body begins to deteriorate and in general, natural responses are slower or stop occurring as they used to. The skin is less sensitive with less elasticity and the reflexes are slower. Muscle tone is less firm and circulation is less regular. The less flexible blood vessels, the less dense bones are. In general, the entire body is affected, and these changes do affect sexual responses since these are general bodily responses that depend, particularly, on circulation.
“Plainly speaking, we are less sensitive, erections are harder to attain, they are less firm, and they do not last as long. There is less vaginal lubrication and elasticity and less irrigation to the entire pubic area, so orgasms are also more difficult to achieve and tend to be less intense than before,” says the UNAM sexologist.
However, the degree of deterioration depends on the general health of each person. For example, if you have exercised throughout your life and, especially, if you have had regular sexual activity, these effects are much fewer. And the converse applies.
Sleep hygiene also plays an important role in sexual desire and performance, so it is recommended to sleep the appropriate hours according to age and maintain set schedules for food, exercise and sleep.
The root of the problem is different in each case
According to Martha Olivia Gómez Alvarado, a urologist certified by the Mexican National Council of Urology, “60% of men and women over 65 years of age want to maintain an active sex life, and this is possible by adapting to the different anatomical and physiological changes of their age.”
Both sexes go through a hormonal process due to age; in women, it is known as the menopause. This series of biological changes affects sexual health in the following ways:
Menopause decreases sexual desire, genital sensation, lubrication, and vaginal blood flow. There is also a narrowing and atrophy of the vagina and in addition, there is a thinning of the labia and changes in vaginal pH. But, the ability to experience multiple orgasms remains.
To deal with these natural processes, you should go to a specialist in sexual function (gynecologists and urologists). “We rule out the causes of changes in sexuality and assess whether they are anatomical, physiological, psychological, or due to previous illnesses. We check whether these have to do with medications that the patient is taking,” says the urologist.
“In some cases, the loss of sexual desire is due to a problem in hypoactive sexual desire (the absence of sexual fantasies or thoughts and lack of interest in having sexual activity). This is a common sexual function disorder. Others include erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, absence of orgasms, lack of lubrication, and many more,” she explains.
In men and women, it is necessary to rule out diseases that cause a lack of sexual desire. “In some cases, the presence of cancer, problems in the thyroid gland, neurological diseases or urinary incontinence are the cause of the problem,” says the specialist.
The specialists prescribe in a personalized way “the use of some drugs to improve erection rigidity and other hormonal supplements to improve desire; in the case of women, they can be prescribed a treatment with local estrogens at the vaginal level,” she says.
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“Although most doctors suggest that the physiological changes inherent to menopause cause sexual difficulties, many therapists suggest that these difficulties could be the result, rather, of the way we understand sex, what it means to us or how we represent ourselves sexually,” highlights Escalante.
That means that if someone is convinced that sex has a reproductive purpose, it is likely that when they are no longer of childbearing age or no longer feel physically fit for motherhood or fatherhood, they will stop feeling interested in erotic activity.
On the other hand, if a person understands pleasure as an end in itself, it is possible that their reproductive status will not affect their sexual interest.
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Diet that stimulates sexual desire
There is a lot of talk about aphrodisiac foods, but there is no 100% scientific evidence. What does exist to improve everyone’s health and of course, their sexual performance at any stage of life, is a balanced and personalized diet.
For example, shellfish is said to be an aphrodisiac, but this food is far from helping to enhance sexuality.
“Food that is very high in cholesterol: shellfish, fatty cheeses or whole milk are not suitable to improve sexual activity. That is why it is necessary to go to a nutrition specialist,” says nutritionist Elizabeth Reyes Castillo, a specialist in nutritional treatment for sports and physical activity.
The majority of the adult population in Mexico is obese and has hypertension and diabetes, so Reyes Castillo, spokesperson and professor of the Mexican Diabetes Federation and a member of its scientific committee, advises the following:
To improve circulation: essential fatty acids such as Omega 3 are recommended. Antioxidant foods that prevent free radicals which can damage the circulatory system. “You also have to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables that contain essential minerals such as potassium and magnesium, which are a source of dopamine, and consequently help sexuality,” says Reyes.
“In the case of diabetes, you have to strengthen the cardiovascular system and regulate glucose, since this can influence certain sexual dysfunctions. It is recommendable to lower the level of sugar intake,” she explains.
If you have hypertension, you should reduce the amount of sodium, “check your products labels; the recommended daily allowance of sodium for a very active elderly person is 1 to 2 grams per day,” she says.
The expert recommends consuming proteins of high biological value such as fish, beef, and chicken. In the case of fish, the fatty type such as sardines, salmon, herring and charales, is recommended as they contain the necessary Omega 3. Fish should be consumed 2 or 3 times a week.
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“Your diet must be balanced according to the MyPlate recommendations, i.e. a good amount of fruits and vegetables at each meal, an source of animal origin, and less sugar, fructose or other sweeteners. In addition, it must be accompanied by regular exercise,” explains Reyes.
There are foods that benefit sexuality, but there is no general recipe. Older adults should go to a nutrition specialist to provide them with a personalized diet that takes into account the details of their health and energy requirements for their daily life and solves the deficiencies of age.
Sexuality at any age benefits health as it generates endorphins and dopamines; these are hormones which lower stress, improve appetite, promote good sleep, and stabilize emotions, all of which contribute to a longer life. Therefore, specialists recommend maintaining the following habits to improve sexual performance in old age: