Age UK uses cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our policy. To read more about how we use cookies and how you can control them read our cookie policy
Skip to content
Please donate

5 things to know about sex in later life

Sex is an important part of life, but the way we have sex and how often we have it can change a lot as we age. People don't talk about that a lot, so here are 5 things to know about (and watch out for) in your sex life as you get older.

Sex is good for your health

Studies have shown that a healthy sex life can be good for your heart, your blood pressure, and your stress levels. It might even help to boost your immune system.

The NHS say anything that exercises your heart is good for you. Your heartrate at orgasm is on average the same as your heartrate during light exercise, like walking upstairs. So it's a great part of maintaining healthy activity levels.

Your blood pressure is lowered by physical contact, such as holding hands and long hugs (and, obviously, sex).

Meanwhile, in a study of 46 people, those who were having sex coped better with stressful situations like public speaking.

And finally, one study found that people who had sex once or twice a week had higher levels of immunoglobin, which is a substance that helps us fight illness. Plenty of reasons to maintain a healthy sex life!

STIs in older people are on the rise

You might think sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are only a problem for younger people. But age doesn't protect you from STIs – anyone who is sexually active is at risk of contracting one. And what's more, it's recently been shown that rates of some STIs among older people are on the rise.

If you have a new sexual partner, or more than one sexual partner, unprotected sex could put you at risk of an STI. Condoms are the only form of contraception that will help to protect you from an infection. If you're worried you might have one, you can talk to your doctor or get tested at a sexual health clinic.

Body changes can affect your sex life

After the menopause, some women can experience vaginal dryness, which can make sex feel quite uncomfortable. But if you still want to have sex, you could try using a vaginal moisturiser or lubricant. They're easy to get hold of in high street chemists and supermarkets, or if you'd rather not buy them in a shop, you could order them online.

Most men develop erection problems as they get older, often resulting in them failing to get or keep an erection. The causes of these problems can be physical or psychological, but simple lifestyle changes can often help, such as losing weight or stopping smoking. However, if erection problems persist for more than a few weeks it's a good idea to see your doctor, as they may prescribe you medication or suggest other treatment options.

Your sex drive might change with age

Losing your sex drive can happen for a number of reasons. That includes falling levels of sex hormones, age-related health problems and the side effects of medications. Problems with sexual desire can lead to one or both partners feeling disappointed or rejected.

But taking time to relax together can often improve sexual desire. This could mean having a glass of wine together, spending time cuddling, or having a chat. Having discussions about your sex drive and why you're feeling how you are can help put you both at ease.

It's common for women to lose interest in sex around the time of the menopause. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can often help with this if you're keen to maintain a physical relationship with your partner. HRT is used to relieve symptoms of the menopause by replacing hormones that are at a lower level as you approach the menopause.

Health conditions can change your sex life

Our physical health can change as we get older and we can become more susceptible to different health conditions, such as heart conditions, arthritis and dementia. If you've been diagnosed with a health issue it's sensible to check with your doctor before you resume your sex life to make sure you're fully fit to do so.

The emotional stress that comes with a diagnosis can also impact your sex life. Your partner may be worried about hurting you, or if your illness has left scarring or a significant body change, you may worry about whether your partner still finds you attractive. 

Illness may have also changed the nature of your relationship, making one of you more dependent on the other than before. It's really important to communicate and talk about your concerns and feelings with your partner. You could try new things together, to see what feels good for both of you. You could also talk to your GP about your concerns, especially if sex causes physical pain or discomfort.

More information from the NHS

Visit the NHS website for more information about sex in later life, or have a chat with your doctor or nurse.

Share this page

Last updated: Oct 07 2019

Become part of our story

Sign up today

Back to top