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What to Expect in Your 70s and Beyond

The good and bad. Plus advice on feeling happy, sexy and pain-free

Preserve Your Senses

The Good News: Lifestyle plays a major role in helping to maintain your senses as you age. So stay away from loud noises, eat a well-balanced diet (which can help ward off such age-related eye disorders as macular degeneration) and see a doctor immediately if you notice that your senses of smell or taste diminish significantly. (This may indicate a sinus infection or be a reaction to medication.)

The Not-So-Good News: You may have trouble seeing when first entering a very dark or bright area. That's because as you age, your eye muscles slow down, causing your eyes' pupils to react more slowly to changes in light. After age 70, the ability to see fine details diminishes as well, because there are fewer nerve cells to transmit visual signals to the brain. If you're plagued by dry eye, medications like Restasis can help create more tears. Finally, some 68 percent of 70-somethings experience some degree of hearing loss. What to do? Swallow your pride and get tested for hearing aids, which have been associated with less cognitive decline and dementia. Wearing the devices could pay off in the long run, experts say, by helping you stay engaged with others and your environment.

What's Up With That? Have you noticed that blues seem gray and reds appear more intense? Not to worry. It's just changes in the lenses in your eyes, which have started to yellow with age. If it gets too bad, you may need cataract surgery. About half of people ages 65 through 74 have cataracts; the number rises to more than 70 percent among those 75 or older.

What's Ahead: Your senses of smell and taste have likely declined, reducing the ability to enjoy subtle flavors. Taste buds decrease in number and sensitivity, and nerve endings in the nose may not work as well. The fix? Turn up the dial on seasonings. Ethnic cuisines like Indian and Thai contain spices and herbs that amplify the aromas and tastes of foods.

mature couple; 60s; bed; sex; love; health

44 percent of women 68 through 80 report being very satisfied with their sex lives, compared with just 30 percent of women 55 to 68 years old. — Photo by Craig Cutler

Improve Your Sex Life

The Good News: Sex in your 70s and beyond? You bet! A recent survey found that 70-year-old men and women were much more likely to be sexually active, to report being in a happy relationship and to have a positive attitude toward sex than people that age who were polled in the 1970s and 1990s. Some 44 percent of women 68 through 80 report being very satisfied with their sex lives, compared with just 30 percent of women 55 to 68 years old.

The Not-So-Good News: Sex-related hormones — estrogen and progesterone in women, testosterone in men — decline, and vaginal dryness may become more noticeable. But lubricants are effective, as are prescription creams and tablets.

What's Up With That? Rates of erectile dysfunction (ED) increase with age; by 70, between 40 and 60 percent of men will experience symptoms. Research shows that not smoking and eating a diet rich in antioxidants can help.

What's Ahead: A University of Chicago study finds almost 40 percent of men 75 to 85 are sexually active.

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