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5 Myths About Sex and Aging

Wonder what happens to your love life as you get older? We separate the facts from the fiction

En español | As you reach your 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond, you may start to worry that your sex life is slowing down, ready to retire or kaput!  To that I say, "No way!" I'd like to put an end to these common misconceptions about sex and aging — once and for all.

Feet under covers in bed

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Sexual contact correlates to better health and easier stress management.

1. His equipment doesn't work. OK, so maybe a guy's erection isn't what it was when he was 20, but it sure as heck still does its thing. In an AARP survey of men over age 70, almost 75 percent said they had few, if any, erectile problems. And if a man does have erectile dysfunction, there's something he can do about it: There are at least three prescription drugs that will not only make the penis harder but also make sex last longer, and there are a number of other options — implants, pumps, shots — that also will do the job.  Don't hesitate to talk to your doctor if you need help.

2. Neither does hers. It is true that menopause can lead to vaginal dryness but there are many great lubricants that can take care of that pesky issue. (I recommend silicone-based ones.) You can also try estrogen-based creams to plump up vaginal tissues, but be sure to talk to your doctor first.

Even more important is that while the walls of the vagina may thin, the clitoris is its old rambunctious self. There is no degradation of that organ, though a little more foreplay may be necessary because blood moves around a bit slower to the genitals as we get older.

3.  You can't fire up an old engine. It's true that if you have stopped having sex, there may be some physical and psychological impediments to restarting the engine. But these can — and should — be overcome. What's the best way to keep your sex life alive and your body interested in sex? Staying fit with exercise. It will keep your heart active, your muscles strong and your mind refreshed.

If you're single, you may need a new partner to light your fire again. If you're in a long-term relationship, you may need to focus on making time for love in new and creative ways. (Or talking to a counselor if that doesn't work.) The bottom line: There's nothing about age per se that means you can't have frisky, frequent and fun sex.

 4. An aging body isn't sexy. We are our own worst enemy when we doubt our sexual allure just because we may be heavier or sag more than in our youth. But remember, sex isn't only about how you look. You become aroused when you stroke each other and kiss passionately. You fall in love with something witty, kind or romantic that your partner says. We don't need perfect bodies to be sexy to someone, but we can ruin our own enjoyment by presuming that others are as critical about our body as we are.  As we get older we should be proud that we have bodies that work and that are still capable of bringing pleasure to a partner. So hop into bed with confidence and pride that will infuse you with sexiness.

5. Older people shouldn't have sex. For some reason, many people think sex belongs to the young. If that were the case, our whole species would lose all sexual feelings as they age — and we know that doesn't happen. We are clearly designed to live longer and better if we have an active sex life. Sexual contact correlates to better health, higher relationship satisfaction and easier stress management. So it is far from natural to stop wanting or having sex. Rather, our lives depend on us keeping our sexual energy and connection intact.