sex,” Bender adds. “Activity decreases with age, but interest and desire does not, for both men and women.”
“For women, vaginal dryness is a big issue. With men, it’s erectile dysfunction,” Miller notes.
Luckily, modern medicine has made advances that can help with these problems. Hormone replacement therapy can help women with the physical symptoms of menopause that interfere with sex, Miller says, and men have Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs.
“The story of Viagra is very interesting, actually,” Miller adds. “In 1998, they were experimenting using it as an antihypertensive. What they noticed was when they were experimenting with these men, when the nurses arrived to check on them they were all on their stomachs, because they were embarrassed since they had erections.”
“That’s when they realized this was a much better medicine for erectile dysfunction than high blood pressure, and that’s made a big difference for men,” Miller continues.
Women can take Viagra as well, “but women don’t like the side effects. Men don’t really like them, either, but they’re willing to put up with them,” Miller adds.
“What I found is for women that you can use Viagra as a cream on the clitoral area,” Miller shares. “I call it ‘scream cream.’ You can get it made up at a compound pharmacy. It works like a charm. You still have to wait 40 minutes like men do, but there’s no side effects, and it works, especially for women who are on antidepressants, who have trouble reaching orgasm. It really is very helpful.”
“Sex and sexuality are taboo in our society,” Bender says. “Especially for women, sex is highly regulated and talked about at an early age, and we’re really socialized to not be sexual beings.”
Miller says, “I think it’s generational. Some Baby Boomers have a hard time talking about sex. My kids don’t have any trouble talking about it. I bet yours don’t either.”
Women also face practical problems when it comes to finding a sex partner, particularly if they’re looking for a man, Bender adds. Women outlive men, so the dating pool shrinks as time goes on, and men tend to choose younger partners.
Through her research, Miller was surprised to learn that many women just give up on the search.
“Even though I think it’s important to have a healthy sex life and healthy partnership, a lot of women don’t want to reengage in partnership as they get older,” Miller says. “They’ve been married. They’ve taken care of people for a very long time. They’ve taken care of their husbands and their children. And they just say, I don’t want that anymore. I’m happy to sit and hold hands with someone, but I don’t want to get into a relationship again. And so that kind of challenged some of my generational thinking about what relationships mean over time.”
If you are having any complications in your sex life, it is important to discuss them with your doctor to find out what options are available. Help is out there, but seniors will have to get over their hang-ups and talk to their doctor to take advantage of these options, the experts say.