In the past, the sexual lives of older adults were often considered taboo. However, in recent years, the sex lives of the elderly have become more openly recognized as a part of life. According to the 2021 Spring Conference of the Korean Geriatrics Society, more than half of the people in their 60s and 20 to 30% of those in their 80s in Korea are sexually active.
This highlights that sex is not exclusive to the young, and that sexual desire does not disappear with age. However, it has been discovered that active sex life and its quality are separate issues, with physical changes that come with age often cited as factors that can negatively affect the quality of sex.
Men in their old age often experience difficulties with erection, decreased ejaculation, and shorter duration of sexual intercourse. Women, on the other hand, may suffer from a thinning vaginal wall, reduced vaginal lubrication, pain during intercourse, or a decrease in vaginal contraction strength. Although not directly related to sexual function, age-related conditions like arthritis can also cause physical pain during intercourse, acting as barriers to a fulfilling sexual life.
Products That Can Aid Senior Sex
Certain products can be effective in addressing these issues:
1. Viagra (Erectile Dysfunction Treatment for Men)
- Lee Beom-seok, former director of the National Rehabilitation Center, noted that "some men who have experienced a full erection using erectile dysfunction drugs can achieve normal erections without medication, in which case they may gradually reduce the dose or completely stop taking the medication."
- When it comes to medications for erectile dysfunction, there are generally few interactions with other drugs. This means that individuals who already take medications for chronic conditions can often safely use erectile dysfunction treatments as well. However, it's important to note that certain medications used for cardiovascular conditions, such as nitroglycerin and other nitrates, should not be taken alongside erectile dysfunction medications. To ensure the best course of action, it is highly recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions regarding medication usage.
2. Addyi (Female Aphrodisiac)
- Unlike erectile dysfunction drugs for men, which were developed due to the side effects of heart medication, female aphrodisiacs were developed during the creation of antidepressants. Rather than expanding the blood vessels to improve sexual function, they work by stimulating the brain to increase sexual desire. One notable difference is that while Viagra produces immediate results, Addyi requires consistent daily intake to be effective.
- For women who want to have sex with their partners but struggle with low libido, this medication can be helpful. However, just like Viagra, it may not be effective for everyone, and it may have side effects, so it's best to consult a doctor before starting a course of treatment.
3. Lubricant (Love Gel)
- Decreased secretion of vaginal lubrication due to a reduction in female hormones can lead to painful intercourse. Using a lubricant can help prevent this. Whether you're a senior or not, using lubricant for smoother, more enjoyable sex or daily external moisturization is recommended.
- Since lubricants are classified as cosmetics by Korean law, they may not be as rigorously tested as pharmaceuticals. Hence, it is crucial to carefully check whether they contain parabens or glycerin/glycol.
- It's also important to ensure that the lubricant can maintain the natural acidity of the vaginal environment. SAIB Intimate Natural Soothing Gel is an example of a product that meets these criteria. (For more detailed information about lubricants, see SAIB-SAID's "Lubricants: The Secret to a Satisfying and Safe Sexual Experience" )
- According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the average increase in STD treatment rates over the past five years from 2013 was 7.3%, but for those over 60, it was 28.5%. This suggests that even as the senior population increases and the senior sex becomes more active, safe sex practices aren't keeping up.
- Many people think that if they don't need contraception, they don't need to use condoms. However, condoms are the easiest way to prevent STDs during sex. Considering the cost and ease of use, they're a good choice for preventing STDs, even for seniors who don't need contraception.
The Attitude Needed for Senior Sex
While erectile dysfunction treatments and lubricants can be helpful when having sex, the most important factor is, of course, the mindset. It's important to let go of the idea that penetrative intercourse is the only form of sex. In Tantra sex, which combines yoga and sex and emphasizes the union of consciousness over ejaculation and orgasms, even just touching the genitals is considered great sex. It's crucial to fully experience your partner during these moments, as the feeling of love and respect obtained through sex is often more important than intense pleasure. You can let go of the obsession with orgasms.
In this light, foreplay becomes important. Focusing less on actual intercourse and spending at least 15 minutes on foreplay can help your partner feel loved and cherished. Regular, casual physical intimacy can also strengthen the bond with your partner.
Sex and Health, Seniors
Sex can help activate the immune system, lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attacks, alleviate pain, and assist with improving sleep disorders and relieving stress. It can potentially reduce the chances of developing prostate cancer, uterine diseases, and urinary incontinence in both men and women. For seniors, in particular, sex can help slow physical decay, deter the progression of dementia and memory loss, and prevent osteoporosis.
The intimacy achieved through sex contributes to increased self-esteem and happiness, and it's also said to be very effective in treating depression, lethargy, and loss of motivation. (If you're interested in learning more about the positive effects of sex on health, please refer to SAIB-SAID's "Beyond Pleasure: 10 Health Benefits of Sex You Didn’t Know About".)
As such, sex with a partner can benefit health, and being a senior is not an exception. Regardless of age, finding a sexual orientation that suits oneself can lead to a healthy and happy sex life.