Intimacy in aging couples

In research among sexually inactive women, most did not wish to resume activity, whereas desire for sexual activity remained high among men

Researchers studied 50 patients (men and women) with an average age of 81, to assess sexual dysfunction. Among the women, the most commonly cited reason for being sexually inactive was “no desire,” whereas for most men, it was “erectile dysfunction.”

However most of the men reported a high desire to be sexual active. The researchers concluded: “In this study of older adults, a minority reported current sexual activity. Among sexually inactive women, most did not wish to resume activity, whereas desire for sexual activity remained high among men, despite substantial problems with erectile dysfunction.” (1)

As our population ages there is increased research into the sexual functioning of older people. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison reviewed many factors in men and women over 50 – they included research on the relationship of biological factors (changes accompanying aging), health (physical, mental, and medication use), psychological factors (attitudes, information about sex), relationship factors (status, satisfaction), and sexual functioning (desire, dysfunctions, treatment) to sexual behavior.

The findings suggested that men and women remain sexually active into their 70s and 80s

The findings suggested that: (a) men and women remain sexually active into their 70s and 80s, (b) aging-related physical changes do not necessarily lead to decline in sexual functioning, and (c) good physical and mental health, positive attitudes toward sex in later life, and access to a healthy partner are associated with continued sexual activity. In turn, regular sexual expression is associated with good physical and mental health. (2)

What does concern many researchers, as pointed out in the above study, is that while men desire to remain sexually active, women, for the most part, do not (3).

Increasing libido in older women – Hormones – namely estrogen

Here is one study that clearly points out the link. “Sexual dysfunction is a common, but frequently overlooked, problem in postmenopausal women. At menopause, dramatic decreases in circulating estrogen concentrations cause physiologic changes that may affect sexual function, most notably the development of vulvovaginal atrophy. Vulvovaginal atrophy often leads to vaginal dryness, itching, irritation, reduced lubrication, dyspareunia, and vaginal bleeding associated with sexual activity.

Estrogen deficiency also can affect other aspects of sexual function, including reduced vaginal blood flow and a reduced capacity for arousal and orgasm. As estrogen loss is a significant cause of sexual dysfunction in menopausal women, estrogen therapy is a logical treatment option in this population. (4)

At the Magaziner Center for Wellness, We have been treating patients with bio-identical hormones (estrogen) for many years. When women first come in to see us, they tell us that they have hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia. The also complain about cognitive function, weight gain, and of course low libido. As opposed to traditional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) Bio-identical hormone therapy (BHRT) can be completely individualized to each patient.

Let Dr. Magaziner explain

1. Smith LJ, Mulhall JP, Deveci S, Monaghan N, Reid MC. Sex after seventy: a pilot study of sexual function in older persons. J Sex Med. 2007 Sep;4(5):1247-53.

2. DeLamater J. Sexual expression in later life: a review and synthesis. J Sex Res. 2012;49(2-3):125-41.

3. Lindau ST, Gavrilova N. Sex, health, and years of sexually active life gained due to good health: evidence from two US population based cross sectional surveys of ageing. BMJ. 2010 Mar 9;340:c810. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c810.

4. Simon JA. Identifying and treating sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women: the role of estrogen. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2011 Oct;20(10):1453-65. Epub 2011 Aug 5.