Taking steps to ensure mental and physical wellness as a senior is essential, but another important aspect of getting older is staying connected to your significant other. Studies have proven that people who maintain romance and stay sexually active tend to live longer, healthier lives. The advantages of intimacy are numerous and varied, and sex, specifically, has the ability to:

  • Burn calories and help you keep a healthy weight
  • Reduce blood pressure as well as anxiety
  • Strengthen your heart and boost cardiovascular function
  • Ease pain and soreness
  • Increase self-esteem and general outlook on life
  • Help you sleep better at night
  • Decrease risk of incontinence and prostate cancer
  • Strengthen the immune system

While sex has a vast array of positive effects on the mind and body, people often find that the have trouble maintaining intimacy as they get older. To take advantage of these benefits as a senior, consider these basic guidelines for a healthy and fulfilling physical relationship:

Communicate with your partner
Talking with your partner is an essential part of enjoying a rewarding sex life. Share your deep thoughts about intercourse and intimacy, including how it makes you feel physically and emotionally, and don't be afraid to openly discuss your preferences during, before or after lovemaking. Honesty is the key in these situations – misleading your significant other about what you like or dislike in bed will only lead to confusion, frustration and dissatisfaction.

Don't get stuck in the past
Seniors may find themselves yearning for the days of the past – in their 30s or 40s when they experienced peak sexual performance. Rather than wasting time trying to figure out how to regain the stamina and arousal of your younger days, embrace the future of your sex life. There are many upsides to lovemaking in older age, such as a better grasp of your preferences, familiarity with your own body and experience in the sack.

Understand changes that come with age
While the need for intimacy may not change with age, many people experience changes in sexual desire and physical function as they get older. Men tend to have the highest testosterone levels during their late teens, however, the body produces less of the hormone as they age. For this reason, males in their 60s often notice that they may not become aroused as quickly and that it can take longer to climax. Seniors are also more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction, and these people often turn to prescription medication for help.

Women, similarly, produce lower levels of estrogen as the get older. As a female reaches menopause – the average age is 51 – she may experience slower arousal as well as vaginal dryness. Emotional changes are also common, and many find themselves feeling less desirable physically. However, some actually enjoy sex more because they no longer need to worry about becoming pregnant.

Practice safe sex
No matter your age, practicing safe sex is essential, but it's becoming increasingly important for seniors. That's because, in the past decade, sexually transmitted disease rates have increased twofold among the middle-aged and elderly. While the precise reasons for this rise is unknown, some doctors believe it is due to the growth of popularity of erectile dysfunction medication that allows for greater sexual activity among older adults. If you're having sex with a short-term or new partner, use a condom and discuss other ways of preventing STDs with your health care provider. If you're in a long-term relationship, be sure to discuss monogamy with your partner and get tested for STDs before engaging in unprotected sex.