01 April 2011

The older adult male

Men go through some sexual changes as they age, but they do not lose their desire or their ability for sexual expression.


Although men go through some sexual changes as they age, they do not lose their desire or their ability for sexual expression. Many individuals remain sexually active throughout their older years.

According to one study, 43% of men aged 70 or older report that they still masturbate, and 59% of married men in that age range still have sexual intercourse with their spouses. Even among very elderly people, the need for touch and intimacy persists, although the desire and ability to have intercourse may decrease. After retirement, men may find that they have more time, and feel more relaxed, to enjoy romance and intimacy with their partner.

Various factors can limit sexual interest and capacity in older men. They may experience physical changes, illnesses, or emotional stress, such as from the loss of a partner, that can lead to a decline in sexual interest and behaviour. Due to the natural aging process, the periodic inability to achieve an erection increases and becomes quite common by the sixth decade. By the time they’re in their 70s, more than one in two men has this problem. However, although by their 60s sexual changes are quite noticeable in almost all men, the pleasure they derive from sex may not be significantly affected. Indeed, most men (unless they have certain health problems) are able to participate in and enjoy sex throughout their lives, and many are able to produce viable sperm until late in life.

As men get older, they are more likely to suffer from medical problems, and there are a number of conditions (e.g. heart disease and diabetes) that can cause erectile dysfunction, and can diminish the capacity for and interest in sex. Also, the side effects of several medications used to treat some of these conditions can compound the problem.

Men who have experienced erection problems may become so anxious about inadequacy that they start to avoid sexual situations altogether. Other psychological factors, including depression, lowered self-esteem associated with the onset of physical signs of aging, and substance abuse can all contribute to the problem. It is very important that men speak to their doctors about medical interventions (such as Viagra) and psychological coping strategies to deal with erectile dysfunction.

Ask one of our experts


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Live healthier

Contraceptives and you »

Scientists create new contraceptive from seaweed Poor long-term birth control training leads to 'accidents'

7 birth control myths you should stop believing

Will the Pill make you gain weight? Can you fall pregnant while breastfeeding? We bust seven common myths about birth control.

Your digestive health »

Causes of digestive disorders 9 habits that could hurt your digestive system

Your tummy rumblings might help diagnose bowel disorder

With the assistance of an 'acoustic belt', doctors can now determine the cause of your tummy troubles.