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Growing old together, staying intimate

You can enjoy a healthy sex life as you age. But be prepared for some natural changes in the way your body works.

There's no doubt that your life will change as you grow older.

But aging doesn't mean giving up a loving physical relationship. Most older people are able to enjoy a satisfying sex life, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA).

However, just as at most other points in one's life, level of sexual activity depends on desire and having a willing partner.

Normal changes

Aging brings some natural changes to the sexual desire and ability of both men and women, according to the NIA.

Women may experience changes in the shape and flexibility of the vagina. Another common change is a decrease in vaginal lubrication. This can affect sexual pleasure, but it's easily remedied with over-the-counter vaginal lubricants. Other medical issues, such as hysterectomy or mastectomy, may affect your desire for sex more than your physical ability.

Men often face more serious sexual problems than women do. Many men experience at least some degree of erectile dysfunction—difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection. But for many men it's possible to manage and even reverse these problems, according to the NIA. If you're having erectile problems, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can help find out what's causing the trouble and treat it accordingly. Possible treatments include counseling, surgery and prescription drugs such as sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra or Staxyn), avanafil (Stendra) or tadalafil (Cialis).

Outside factors

Sexual problems can also result from other illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. But while these problems may have an effect on your sex life, they don't have to end it, according to the NIA. By communicating with your partner and following your doctor's advice you should be able to carry on.

Counseling may also help people who experience these problems.

Different but good

No matter how your sexual life changes with age, it can still be good. For some people, sex later in life even has some advantages.

Changes in sexual ability may force couples to communicate more about their needs. Couples also learn to take more time with intimate activities such as hugging, kissing and caressing. In the end, the result can be a more fulfilling experience for both partners.

reviewed 4/19/2018

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This information is provided for educational purposes only. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare providers regarding medical care or treatment, as recommendations, services or resources are not a substitute for the advice or recommendation of an individual's physician or healthcare provider. Services or treatment options may not be covered under an individual's particular health plan.