Let’s be honest, the human penis isn’t exactly the most attractive organ in the natural world. Don’t get me wrong, when it works it can be a pretty impressive piece of equipment, but few people would argue that it’s particularly attractive to look at. What’s more, it changes as you get older.
If you’re a bit perplexed about the altering appearance of your most treasured appendage, don’t worry too much. Most of it is probably normal. But how exactly can you expect your penis to change as you are getting older?
Levels of testosterone, the male sex hormone, tend to start declining once a man reaches the age of 40, dropping steadily at a rate of around 0.3% every year. Low testosterone can have a range of effects both on your general sexual behaviour and appetite, as well as on the performance of your genitals. In addition, most reproductive and sexual health disorders tend to become more common as men get older.
With increasing age, the majority of guys find that it takes more effort for them to get sexually aroused and to achieve an erection. It also takes longer to reach an orgasm and to attain a second erection. As with the rest of the body, muscle tone in the penis tends to slacken with age, making good erections harder to come by. Semen volume and sperm quality decline and older gents are more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction or impotence. Because of weakening bladder muscles and a prostate that’s increasing in size, a diminished urine stream is common in aging men.
The average newborn boy has a penis that’s about 4cm long. It doesn’t tend to grow at all until the age of five and then only very little until the onset of puberty. Approximately five years after hitting puberty, usually between about 17 and 22, most young men reach their adult penis length and it stops growing together with the rest of the body at the end of puberty.
There are two ways in which a man’s penis may decrease in size as he gets older. Many guys put on weight as they age and as fat accumulates in the lower abdomen, their bulging belly tends to make the shaft of the penis look shorter. Getting rid of your beer boep is the obvious solution!
But the penis may also undergo an actual reduction in thickness and length with age, and while it’s not usually very dramatic, it may be noticeable. According to Irwin Goldstein, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine, “if a man’s erect penis is six inches long when he is in his 30s, it might be five or five-and-a-half inches when he reaches his 60s or 70s”.
This age-related shrinkage is probably caused by a gradual build up of inelastic collagen (scar tissue) within the sheath that surrounds the erection chambers and by the slow deposition of fatty substances, called plaques, inside tiny arteries of the penis, leading to impaired blood flow (atherosclerosis).
As a result of reduced blood flow with age, the glans or head of the penis gradually loses its purplish colour, which goes together with a slow loss of pubic hair. Because of an uneven accumulation of penile scar tissue some men’s penis starts becoming curved in middle age. Known as Peyronie’s disease, this condition may make intercourse tricky and erections painful, and it may require surgical intervention to fix.
Several scientific studies have confirmed that in many men the penis becomes less sensitive as they get old, which partially explains why it also becomes harder to achieve erections and orgasms.
According to Goldstein a man’s testicles start to shrink from about the age of 40. While a 30 year-old guy may have testicles that are three centimetres in diameter, those of a 60 year-old may only measure two centimetres.
None of this should make you despair about the future of your sex life though. A recent study discovered only moderately lowered levels of sexual satisfaction among aging men even though a substantial decrease in penile function was evident.
(Andrew Luyt, Health24, July 2011)