In a survey by AARP, 72 percent of men and 63 percent of women said they have a current regular sexual partner. However, less than half of adults over 50 reported being satisfied with their current sex life. The main reasons cited were declining health, stress, and life-stage changes.
Women over 50 have unique concerns when it comes to sexual health. As life progresses and evolves, so do our bodies. This can introduce challenges in many areas of life, but especially in the bedroom. Read on for helpful tips on how to have a great sex life at 50 and beyond.
Take Care of Your Emotional Connection
It may seem counterintuitive, but emotional intimacy can transform your sex life. Terry Gaspard, a licensed therapist and relationship expert with the Gottman Institute says that a good sexual relationship is built on emotional intimacy and closeness. Without it, over time couples can fall into what Gaspard calls a “pursuer-distancer pattern”, in which one person becomes more critical and aggressive, while the other becomes defensive and distant.
To avoid slipping into unhelpful cycles, it’s important to keep your lines of communication open. Couples who are hoping to rekindle their passion will benefit from turning towards each other, even in times of disagreement. This means showing empathy, instead of being defensive. Approaching issues from a “me versus you” mindset is likely to lead to tension, but changing your perspective to “me and you versus the issue” will help you approach conflict as a team and make it the other side a stronger and more emotionally connected couple.
Having a regular date night can give you both something romantic to look forward to. Setting aside time for your relationship signals that your emotional connection is important to you both. Creating an intimate experience for you both to enjoy, whether it’s a candlelit dinner or a walk through your favorite park, will allow you to prioritize one another and your emotional connection.
Showing physical affection that is not overtly sexual can also help to increase your emotional connection. Activities like holding hands, cuddling, and hugging one another can increase the level of oxytocin in your brain. Oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” is responsible for the warm and fuzzy feeling of being in love. It helps us bond with our loved ones, so it’s especially helpful in rekindling your sex life.
Choose the Right Tools
Many of the same toys that are designed to help with solo sex can also be helpful with a partner. In both cases, the right toy can revolutionize your sex life. Whether you’re a veteran shopper or this is your first time, there are a few things women over 50 should consider when buying a sex toy.
Toys with large, easy-to-press buttons can be helpful for those with limited dexterity. Many options can also be controlled by a mobile app, making them a great option for the tech-savvy. Some options like the We-Vibe Sync O can be used hands-free and are ideal for couples. Toys with a loop or strap like this one may be easier to hold and maneuver during both solo and partnered play.
It may be more intimidating for older women in particular to incorporate sex toys into their bedroom routines. According to sex educator Dr. Wendasha Jenkins Hall, this is largely because people—especially women—have been told that masturbation is wrong and that sexual pleasure is something to be ashamed of. In fact, experts widely recognize masturbation as a healthy part of a functioning sexuality.
Sex therapist Sandi Kaufman says that a key part of having a satisfying sex life after 50 is adjusting your approach. When the sex you’re used to having isn’t enjoyable or accessible anymore, there are several things you can do to keep your sex life satisfying, says Kaufman. Her goal, she says, is to get women to think more openly about what sex looks like as they encounter aging bodies.
Another practical solution is to use pillows for support in difficult-to-maintain positions. Wedge pillows like this one, this one, or this inflatable option are a great way to expand your range of motion. They’re also a great solution if you need a place to rest and take a breather.
Pay Attention to Your Pelvic Floor
Women have been told the benefits of kegels since their advent in 1948. More recent research has found that they may not be the pelvic cure-all we once thought. It turns out that issues like incontinence and pelvic pain may be caused by the muscles of your pelvic floor being too tense already. Exercising them may only make the issue worse.
According to UT Health Austin pelvic floor physical therapist Maureen Ryan Christian, kegels are a prescription-only exercise. She says that they should really only be a part of your routine if you’ve consulted with a professional. Otherwise, the exercise could contribute to pelvic floor muscles becoming overworked.
Christian says that muscle strain is often the root cause of pelvic floor dysfunction. “A muscle that is contracting too much and never allowed to relax to its intended length will become weakened because it can’t lengthen and shorten effectively,” she explains.
The pelvic floor is made up of soft tissue structures and muscles, nerves, ligaments, and connective tissue that support the organs at the bottom of your pelvis. “The vagina, urethra, and rectum pass through the floor of the pelvis and are surrounded by this pelvic floor musculature,” says Christian. This contributes to core stability and helps maintain reproductive, bowel, and urinary functions. As such a complex structure, pelvic floor issues can contribute to a variety of health woes, including bowel, bladder, and sexual dysfunction.
Christian says that a trained pelvic health physical therapist can help with pelvic floor dysfunction. These professionals are trained to evaluate symptoms from a neuromuscular perspective and determine the correct treatment.
Pelvic floor dysfunction can seriously impact so much more than your sex life. Consulting a pelvic floor specialist can help you get to the bottom of incontinence concerns and so much more. Christian knows the limitations pelvic floor dysfunction can place on your life, but she’s determined to help patients overcome that pain. “Pelvic floor physical therapy can empower you to live life on your own terms.”
Overcoming issues and keeping your sex life vibrant in your 50s and beyond is completely possible with a little bit of planning. Talk openly, try out new things, and don’t be afraid to get help if you need it. You can have a satisfying sex life, no matter how many candles are on the cake.