Sex as we get older

Written by: Anel Martínez



Time to read 4 min

Sexuality plays an important part role in our life, as we are sexual beings. Since the day we are born, till the day we die, we will be accompanied by our sexuality. This means that sex doesn’t fade away once we reach old age, and that’s a big myth we need to address. It is true that desire, hormone level and life changes with age, and there are certain factors that do affect the way we experience sex and sexuality overall. 

Unlike women, men do not experience a major, rapid (over several months) change in fertility as they age. Instead, changes occur gradually during a process that some people call andropause. Aging changes in the male reproductive system. We all know that, as we get older, we are susceptible to certain medical conditions and our bodies won’t be able to do things that we could do as easily as when we were young. These concerns become more and more pertinent as we age and our bodies don’t act in quite the same ways they always have.  

Age and sex drive

As we age, sex drive, also known as libido, will tend to decrease. Part of this is due to natural changes in our production of testosterone that occur as we get older. Testosterone is the main sex hormone in men, and it’s responsible for many of the male secondary sex characteristics, such as the voice and the amount of muscle mass on the body. It’s also directly responsible for regulating the sex drive.

What happens to the penis

Erection will be less firm, and you may find it hard to have them. But, don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal for arousal to take a bit longer than in your younger years. This may be due to a sexual dysfunction such as erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation. Also, there could be a decrease in penile sensitivity to vibration and light touch with aging, this is just biology at work. 

What are the most common sexual dysfunctions?

  • Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to achieve and maintain an erection persistently, causing poor sexual satisfaction. This sexual condition affects physically and psychosocially, imparing sexual response, affecting their relationship as well. Recent epidemiological studies on ED revealed that 5% to 20% of men have this condition.

  • Premature eyaculation is the loss of control when climaxing. That is, when a person ejaculates earlier than desired or lasts less than 3 minutes to reach ejaculation on average. 

  • Delayed ejaculation  (DE) is a sexual condition where prolonged stimulation is needed before a man can reach climax. In other words, it takes him a long time to ejaculate. 

  • Anejaculation, on the other hand, is not reaching ejaculation  at all. 

Happy senior couple smiling in bed

Physiological changes

Aging changes in the male reproductive system occur primarily in the testes. Testicular tissue mass decreases, there are some urinary changes, and the intake of medications affects our overall sexual health. This is a general slowing, instead of a complete lack of function.

Urinary function

The prostate gland enlarges with age as some of the prostate tissue is replaced with a scar like tissue. This condition, called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), affects about 50% of men. BPH may cause problems with slowed urination and ejaculation.

Effect of changes

Medicines (such as those used to treat hypertension and certain other conditions), certain medications used to treat age-related issues, such as blood pressure medications or antidepressants, can prevent a man from staying hard or even experiencing a low sex drive. Disorders, such as diabetes, can also affect sexual performance. Finally, issues such as depression, anxiety and stress — which often develop in middle age or later in life — can also have a negative effect on sexual desire.

Many of these conditions can have a negative effect on sexual performance and libido.

Alterations in the sexual response 

The four stages of sexual response: excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution, change with age.  During the different stages you may experience a delay in erection, tensing of the scrotal sac decreases, and testicular elevation may not occur. Also, you may find that orgasms may diminish in duration and intensity, and there are decreased or spastic prostatic contractions, decreased urethral contractions, and decreased force of emission. Finally, after ejaculation, there is rapid detumescence and testicular descent. The refractory period between erections is prolonged with aging.

Old man sitting in a chair

But hope is not dead

There are many ways you can enjoy sex as you age. We know this may sound like a broken record, but it is very important to maintain a healthy diet and to exercise. Also, try to avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other types of drugs. Having a healthy body and will help:

Other things that can help you in your relationship is to:
  • Uphold your self-esteem: acknowledge that you are much more than a penis, an erection or a body. Having this in mind will remind you that you are worthy of love, pleasure and companionship. Try to enjoy every sexual encounter.

  • Focus on pleasure: it’s time for you to discover new things. Explore your body again and accept all the changes as they arise. Try not to think about the things that you can’t do any more or not with the same stamina, but rather, focus on pleasure.

  • Innovate: As you discover more of yourself, the most important thing is to open your mind and take time to rethink new sexual positions, new ways to feel and enjoy yourself in bed and with your body.

Old couple sitting in a cafe

Sex is great at any age

Sexuality remains an important issue in the older population. In spite of a decreased ability to achieve an erection, there clearly is continued sexual desire. Many studies suggest that erectile dysfunction in the aged is primarily caused by age-associated chronic disease rather than normal, healthy aging. 

Therefore, preventive measures aimed at the underlying diseases should be sought. Nevertheless, effective treatment options are now available to successfully regain sexual function and, thereby, improve quality of life. Aging by itself does not prevent a man from being able to enjoy sexual relationships.
Don’t think you’re alone. There are many methods that can be practiced to help with the sexual dysfunctions accompanied with therapy from a specialized team.

Anel Martínez

Author: Anel Martínez  (Sexual Coach at MYHIXEL)

Sexologist specializing in sex therapy and sex education, mental health and human behavior.