As life expectancy increases and medical advances improve the health of many men, intimacy and sexual activity can and does continue into their later life.
For some men though, whether heterosexual or homosexual, the aging process can affect the sexual response with possibly new and different ways of achieving sexual stimulation and pleasure for self and/or partner being required. Previously just thinking about ‘it’ was enough and arousal was assured. As the ageing process develops it might take longer to ‘feel horny’ or reach a hard erection in the same time span. The erection might not be as hard, the orgasm might not feel as powerful and there might be less semen. Indeed ejaculation itself may take longer – a possible positive side effect for the partner.
Those in long term relationships might feel that discussing sexual issues might be inappropriate at this stage of life – after all haven’t you been ‘doing it right’ for decades? For some men, either cultural perspectives, or generational ways of thinking and stereotypical biases against those seen as no longer in their prime of life, may affect the ease with which they feel able to discuss such concerns with their partners or their health practitioners.
There are many ways of enhancing men’s sex life, sometimes in the privacy of their own home, and, if required and sought out, with a therapist and/or health practitioner. An individual might find that greater direct stimulation of the penis for a longer period may overcome the reduced sensitivity aging can bring. Watching erotic videos, or reading magazines and books; communicating and experimenting with sexual fantasies and desires; understanding that a partner can be pleasured by non-penetrative sex are all ways that do not require medical intervention.
Sex therapy and counseling, in many cases, can assist to clarify the issues that might be leading to erectile difficulties and/or dysfunction. Medical intervention may both create the difficulties, as in the case, for example of the side effects from anti-depressant drugs; however they may also alert to medical interventions eg. hormonal in- balance, in particular testosterone, where the perceived problem may be easily remedied. Chronic medical conditions can in themselves decrease sexual activity and discussing this openly and honestly, as a couple, with the physician may be the opportunity to build a different relationship, based on genuine intimacy.
When young the male response is autonomous –the response is learned early and is predictable for most males. Thinking of sex alone can be enough for ejaculation, and there is little requirement to get the partner aroused. As men age, even with the excellent oral drugs that can be prescribed to assist erectile dysfunction, there is a requirement to integrate the taking of the ‘pills’ into the pleasuring and arousing of their partner. Even with this, the success rate of the medication is between 60-80%. Taking the pill does not guarantee a successful outcome for the man – or possibly the partner. The key to greater intimacy with aging couples is in the quality of their communication and their ability to be open to new ways of relating.