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Sexual Activity and Aging

  • Mary Ni Lochlainn
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to Mary Ni Lochlainn, BSc, School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin, 36 Templemore Avenue, Rathgar, Dublin 6, Ireland.
    Affiliations
    School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
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  • Rose Anne Kenny
    Affiliations
    The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), Dublin, Ireland

    Department of Medical Gerontology, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

    Trinity EngAGE, Trinity College Dublin Centre for Research in Ageing, Dublin, Ireland

    Mercer's Institute for Successful Ageing, St James's Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
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      Abstract

      Sexuality is an important component of emotional and physical intimacy that men and women experience throughout their lives. Research suggesting that a high proportion of men and women remain sexually active well into later life refutes the prevailing myth that aging and sexual dysfunction are inexorably linked. Age-related physiological changes do not render a meaningful sexual relationship impossible or even necessarily difficult. Many of these physiological changes are modifiable. There are various therapeutic options available to patients to achieve maximum sexual capacity in old age.
      This article reviews the prevalence of sexual activity among older adults, the problems these adults encounter with sexual activity, and the role of the health care professional in addressing these problems. The physiological sex-related changes that occur as part of the normal aging process in men and women are reviewed, as well as the effect of age-related physical and psychological illness on sexual function. The attitudes and perceptions of the media and general public toward sexual activity and aging are summarized. An understanding of the sexual changes that accompany the aging process may help general practitioners and other doctors to give practical and useful advice on sexuality as well as refute the misconception that aging equates to celibacy. A thorough awareness of this aspect of older people’s quality of life can raise meaningful expectations for aging patients.

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