Older men: Rethinking a healthy sex life

Old people holding hands. couple concept. love concept.

Men have to accept many changes as they age — less hair, less muscle — but less sex doesn’t have to be one of them. In fact, 54% of men over age 70 are still sexually active, according to research in the January 2016 issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior.

What many men do need to change, however, is their mindset about this next phase of their sex lives. “Many continue to focus only on the physical aspect, so when issues like erectile dysfunction or unpredictable sex drives arise, it can trigger guilt, anxiety, and frustration,” says Dr. Sharon Bober, director of the Sexual Health Program at Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Center.

One way to overcome this barrier is to think less about intercourse and more about “outercourse.” This means to direct your attention and energy more on foreplay and manual stimulation with your partner. “The emphasis is on intimacy and closeness rather than performance,” says Dr. Bober. “This allows men to become less stressed and more engaged in connecting with their partner.”

What you can do

Here are some ways to better embrace outercourse:

Recreate date night. Make an effort to go out on a scheduled basis and experience something new together. It could be a hobby or an event you both have always wanted to check out, or even a quick day or overnight trip. “Doing something different can offer a sense of excitement that can bring you and your partner closer together,” says Dr. Bober. “Couples need to have romance and novelty to be emotionally, mentally, and physically stimulated.”

Focus on the nonsexual. When was the last time you and your partner just hugged, kissed, and explored each other’s bodies without the goal of sex? “Couples may say they don’t do that anymore because they are married, but do not underestimate the excitement of re-exploring the early rituals of courtship,” she says.

Mix up your sex routine. “Give each other a massage as part of foreplay, or try a different setting or time of day, like having sex in the morning when you both may be well rested,” says Dr. Bober. “Just having a conversation about how to change up the regular routine can be fun and exciting.”

Changes in desire

Men can lose interest in sex at times, but that is normal, says Dr. Bober. It often occurs because the sexual connection between your mind and body is out of sync. During these periods, it can be helpful to engage more in the mental side of sex, such as erotic thoughts, fantasy, and memories, says Dr. Bober. “This kind of mental engagement can be quite pleasurable for men without needing physical stimulation, and eventually it can help the mind and body reconnect.”

Desire also can wane if you are not involved with anyone. But again, do not feel under pressure to fill that part of your life. “You need to ask yourself if it bothers you,” says Dr. Bober. “If it is not something on your radar right now, no need to worry about it. You will know when you are ready for affection.”

Do not forget to take care of yourself so you can continue to enjoy your sex life. Many medical conditions can affect sexual drive and performance, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. “If you want to be active, you have to stay active, and that means focusing on your exercise routine and being diligent about a proper diet and medical check-ups,” says Dr. Bober.

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