Staying sexual while getting older

Men who go through prostate cancer tend to be older (usually over 65 years), and also tend to have older partners. Sex in older age may be different, but it’s just as important (and as possible!) as when you were younger.

What happens sexually as we age?

Researchers at the University of Chicago studied what happens to sexuality as people age. They interviewed several thousand men and women over age 40 and found:

Sexual activity declines with age

However, men and women continue to be sexually active into their 90s.

People who are sexually active tend to be healthier

Does sexual activity make people healthier? Or do healthier people have more sex? We don’t know for sure, but these things just seem to go together.

What kinds of sexual problems do older adults face?

People in middle and older age have unique challenges when it comes to sex. Aging causes changes that can impact your sexual function. It can also impact your sexual desire and ability to perform.

  • 37% of older men have trouble keeping an erection

  • 43% of older women have a lack of interest in sex

  • 17% of older women have pain during vaginal entry

Needing more stimulation or time for erections

Most older men need stimulation more time to get a full erection — it’s pretty normal. If a spontaneous erection used to take only a few seconds at a younger age, now it can take some stimulation for an older man.

Older men will also need more time to get another erection after sex. How much time is needed will be different for every man. In men over 50, it can take up to 24 hours after sex to be able to have another erection.

Good sex is still possible, even if it’s different.

Despite the challenges to sexuality in older age, many older adults have very satisfying sex lives.

Why?

  • You’re more sexually experienced than when you were younger.

  • You may know more about what you want sexually.

  • You may feel less self-conscious about having pleasure.

  • You may have more confidence about satisfying a partner.

So, if you have some years under your belt, remember there can be benefits to sex and intimacy that come with age.

Consider making goals for your sex life.

After prostate cancer treatment, what you need to achieve sexual satisfaction may change. And when it comes to pleasure and connection with a partner, it can help to make realistic goals that suit you both.

For example, if penetration or orgasm are important but also difficult or impossible naturally, you might need to:

  • try medication or different sexual aids

  • communicate even more with your partner about:
    - what you want
    - what they want
    - what you're both willing to try

As you work toward your goals together, remember there are people who can support you. Talk to your doctor or care team, or reach out to a sex therapist for help.

37% of older men have trouble keeping an erection

43% of older women have a lack of interest in sex

17% of older women have pain during vaginal entry

Fact Check

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True or false? Sexual function stays the same as you age.
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