The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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Older Americans have been busy disproving long-lived myths about old age. They are living healthy, vital lives, remaining in the workforce longer and making valuable contributions to their families, communities and employers. Yet many younger people are surprised to find that these healthy, active seniors also enjoy close, personal relationships and, yes, having sex.

We know from studies that seniors who are in close relationships live longer, healthier, more fulfilling lives. According to one study, people with good friends and confidants outlived those without close relationships by 22 percent.

People of all ages appreciate the companionship and intimacy of a close relationship. Being older doesn't make you different emotionally. While age may limit you somewhat physically, there's no reason why it should do so emotionally. And the physical component of a relationship can be just as important to older adults as to younger people.

However, many believe that sexuality is for the young. Sex among older people has traditionally been either the subject of jokes or is ignored altogether. One of the myths of old age is that it is natural to lose interest in sex as people get older.

But national studies are proving that myth wrong. According to a survey by the National Council on the Aging, nearly half of those over age 60 engage in sexual activity at least once a month. The survey found that 39 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with the amount of sex they were having, while another 39 percent said they wished they had sex more frequently. About 74 percent of sexually active men and 70 percent of active women said they were as satisfied, or even more satisfied, with their sex lives today as they were in their 40s.

Many older Ohioans are now dating in a very different world than when they first started. They may see contraceptives as exclusively for preventing pregnancy - protection they don't need. They fail to recognize the role some contraceptives have in preventing disease and they are even less likely to see themselves at risk for infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies show that people in midlife and older are at significant risk for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

According to an AARP survey, more men and women in midlife and older are turning to health professionals to improve their sexual health. However, older Americans are not receiving treatment for a variety of illnesses and conditions that may affect their sexual health, as part of their overall health. Given the impact of sexual health on the quality of life, doctors and health care providers need to be better prepared to talk to older patients about their sex lives and issues related to sexual health, including education and disease prevention. Patients also need to be willing to discuss intimate relationships openly and honestly. 

Sexuality is an essential element that adds to the quality of our lives. We need to recognize and celebrate the fact that sexuality and intimacy can continue to be an important part of everyone's lives, no matter how old you are.
 

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