As a trainee sexologist I always asked the question if our seniors are still interested in their sexuality and in expressing it. I was influenced by the cultural stereotype that the ultimate and intimate physical expression of sexuality is something of the youth. In the not so distant past, it was commonly presumed that the importance of sexual desire and functioning diminished as a person aged. This belief is still very evident here in Malta, where sexuality tends to be discussed in the light of risky behavior, a casual and recreational activity, or as a means of procreating. From my clinical experience in sexology and research carried out in this field, it is true that there is a slight decline in sexual activity (frequency) round about the age of 50, and a faster decline after the age of 70 years. Notwithstanding, the expression of sexuality remains an important part of life throughout old age.
A research on individuals aged from 80 to 102 by Bretschneider and McCoy back in 1988, confirmed that 62% of the men and 30% of the women they studied still engaged in intercourse. Therefore some seniors still desire to pursue an active, satisfying sex life. This is our starting point – the importance of an ongoing expression of sexuality throughout our life. As one can imagine, the way it is expressed can vary according to the individual and the couple. Since discussing what male sexuality entails, is beyond the scope of this present blog, I will discuss the notion of sexuality and menopause.
In fact living a fulfilling sexuality is an increasingly felt need among menopausal women. Improved standard of living together with an increase in life expectancy, frequently instill within women the desire to have a fulfilling sex and love life even during menopause. Although the way with which one approaches and expresses sexuality might be different, there is still the desire to receive and give pleasure to your partner, and to intimately and physically connect to your partner. The onset of menopause, similar to that of menstruation, involves major changes, both physically, psychologically and spiritually. During this period, the reproductive capacity of the woman ceases. Menopause occurs with increasing irregularity of the cycle and brings about symptoms that are often poorly tolerated by modern society. Such symptoms include joint pain, urinary tract infections, hot flashes, a decrease of lubrication during sexual arousal and decreased libido, amongst other effects.