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November 19-25, 2014

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Practice safe sex at any age

With the advent of erectile dysfunction medications and senior dating websites, more older adults are sexually active than ever. Many mistakenly believe they are not at risk for HIV/AIDS and other STDs, like herpes, hepatitis B, syphilis, and gonorrhea.

In fact, adults age 50 and older account for 17% percent of all newly diagnosed cases of HIV, according to the U.S. Administration on Aging. 

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Keep intimacy alive as you age


The need for intimacy is ageless, and there are many benefits of sex for older adults, says Terri Clark, prevention services coordinator at ActionAIDS and a longtime health educator.

Among these benefits, sex can restore and enhance energy, increase circulation, and release endorphins to promote well-being and reduce stress, she says.

While aging may bring physical changes and health challenges that can affect sexual activity, she says, “people continue to date, mate and enjoy sex well into their 60s, 70s 80s and 90s.”

Although sex may not be the same in your senior years as it was in your 20s, it can still be as fulfilling as ever. In fact, intimacy may become even greater, according to George Hall, geriatric social worker/staff therapist at the Council for Relationships.

“Many couples want to know how to get back to the sexual arousal and activity they experienced in their younger years, but normal aging brings physical changes in both men and women,” he says. To optimize your sex life, “it’s important to set aside time to be sensual and sexual together to share your thoughts about lovemaking and help your partner understand what you want from him or her,” he advises. “Don’t be embarrassed to seek professional advice from a physician or other expert if you are having difficulties.”

As women age, for example, the vagina can shorten and narrow, Hall explains. Vaginal walls can become thinner and also a little stiffer. Most women will have less vaginal lubrication. As men get older, they may experience erectile dysfunction (ED). They can lose the ability to have and/or keep an erection, or it may take longer to have an erection, he says. Older adults may also have health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, or be taking medications, such as anti-depressants and blood pressure medications, that may affect sexual performance and desire. 

While much of media advertising aimed at older adults focuses on lubricants and medications to address sexual dysfunction, aging also brings many positives that can enhance sexuality, experts say.


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Resources on sexuality and aging

Local Resources 
ActionAIDS: HIV/AIDS education, testing, counseling and support.1216 Arch St., 6th Floor, Philadelphia; 215-981-0888; info@actionaids.org. Contact Terri Clark at 267-940-5502 or by e-mail to tclark@actionaids.org for information on sex education and HIV/AIDS prevention workshops for older adults.

Council for Relationships: Offers a variety of counseling services for seniors, including individual, family, seniorcouples andsex therapy. Offices throughout the Philadelphia area: 215-382-6680.

Sexuality and Aging Consortium at Widener University: Education, counseling for individuals and couples, and programs that help caregivers preserve older adults’ dignity and right to sexual expression. One University Place, Chester, Pa.; 610-499-1153; saconsortium@widener.edu; 


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