Sexuality and U
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Sexual Health

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Aging Men and Sex

 

Men have their own set of issues that have an impact on their sexual activity. As with women, there is certainly no age limit on sex for men. However, older men generally take longer to achieve an erection, have a less firm or rigid erection, are less likely to ejaculate prematurely, and, take longer, after sex, to be physically ready to have sex again. As with women, many of these physical changes in sexual arousal are the result of hormonal changes.

Andropause

Men go through their own changes, related to a decrease in hormones, as they age. Andropause – sometimes called “male menopause” or aging male syndrome (AMS) – happens at roughly the same time women experience menopause: somewhere between the ages of 35 and 70 years, but mostly commonly experienced in the early 50s.

However, the decline in hormone levels (in this case, testosterone – the male hormone) is more gradual than the rapid fall in estrogen levels that mark the onset of menopause for women. At about age 30, men begin to produce less testosterone, although testosterone levels vary and some 70 year olds have testosterone levels that match the levels found in some 30 year olds. While the decline in hormone levels is gradual, it can still lead to very real physical effects. Symptoms of andropause include:

  • lack of energy
  • lower sex drive
  • decreasing strength and endurance
  • mood changes
  • erections that are less strong

While hormone replacement therapy for men (or testosterone therapy) is available, it has potential risks. The most worrisome side effect of testosterone therapy is its potential to make prostrate cancers grow. Always talk to your doctor or health-care provider before considering any medication.

Decreased Desire

Declining levels of testosterone may lead to loss of energy and sex drive. This is common for both men and women. But it doesn’t mean that you should put your sexual activities on the back burner. Keep your sex life alive by making time for it, talking about the changes you are going through and trying out different approaches that allow you to get excited and enjoy each other. While a decrease in desire may be a fact of life as you age, try not to let the “sexual flame” go out. It may become much harder to re-ignite. Don’t drop sex for any long period of time if you can help it. If you are without a partner, go solo. Staying sexually active is also the best way to keep your sexual organs performing up to par. Men have firmer erections when they have regular sex.

Other factors also contribute to fading desire including relationship problems, stress, depression and medication. If your efforts don’t seem to make a difference, talk to your doctor or health-care professional.

Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

Impotence, also called erectile dysfunction or ED, is not a direct result of aging. But the diseases that may come with age do increase the risk. Erectile dysfunction is when a man has a frequent or continuous problem achieving and sustaining an erection. ED can be caused by mental, emotional or physical factors. It can also be a side effect of certain medications, or drinking too much alcohol.

The first step in dealing with ED is finding out what’s causing the problem. As soon as you notice that you are having erection difficulties, you should visit your doctor for a checkup. Don’t just assume that impotence comes with age. It doesn’t. And it could be a sign of an underlying problem.

Some approaches that have worked for other men include:

  • keep your healthy habits
  • eat well
  • exercise regularly
  • reduce alcohol consumption
  • reduce your stress
  • quit smoking
Medication (PDE5 inhibitors)

Viagra®, Levitra® and Cialis® are medications for impotence and is much more effective than the mechanical devices on the market. They work by blocking the enzyme that interferes with blood flow to the penis. Erections still require stimulation (unlike injections, which produce erections without stimulation) and make the whole process feel more like natural sex. There are side effects, and interactions with other drugs, so talk to your doctor about whether medication is right for you.   

Penis ring

This works for men who get, but can’t maintain an erection. An elastic ring is slipped over the base of the erect penis to maintain the erection until ejaculation.

Vacuum devices

This mechanical device is just what it sounds like – a type of vacuum. The penis is placed in a tube that is pumped to create a vacuum. This causes an erection, which is then maintained by slipping a tension band (like the penis ring) around the base of the penis.

Other options

Other options, such as injections, pellet therapy or, in extreme cases, penile implants, are available through your doctor.

Monitoring medication

Discuss any medication you might be on for other conditions with your doctor to find out whether they might be contributing to the problem.

Perspective

Remember, there is much more to sex than a hard penis making penetration. Treating impotence should involve both parties, not just the one with impotence. You may need to work together to restore intimacy and sexual confidence. Keep the lines of communication open. Spend time pleasing each other without keeping the focus on erection or penetration.

Focus on giving and receiving pleasure