In this part of the site you will find information about sex and relationships for older people. It considers some of the health and lifestyle issues that people can encounter as they grow older and provides contacts for services and websites where they can find exactly the advice, support or healthcare they need.
Sex and Older People
Most people who are able to, and want to, continue to have an active, pleasure-filled sex life whether they are 20 or 90. The experience of having sex can change with age as people grow in maturity and experience and as they adapt to changes in their values, bodies and emotions. Common sense tells us that as we get older we tend to slow down. Many older people are less interested in sex, and have sex less often than in their twenties. Others hardly slow down at all, in any part of their lives. But sexual activity, the amount and the quality, often has more to do with the relationships you are in rather than how old you are. People in a new relationship are often keen to have sex, and lots of it.
Some people, no matter what their age, have sexual problems. These can be physical or psychological, and this website offers guidance on where to find help.
In general if you are fit and healthy you will be able to enjoy a fulfilling and active sex life. The thing most likely to affect enjoyment of sex is the quality of your relationship with your partner. From time to time physical or emotional or mental health problems may begin to have an impact on sexual health and wellbeing. But there can be physical health issues which affect your sex life.
Men's Health Issues
The prostate gland is just below the bladder. It encircles the urethra, the tube through which both semen and urine pass to leave the body. The prostate gland usually causes no obvious problems unless it swells (prostate enlargement) and tightens around the urethra. In this case it can interfere with your ability to pass urine and you might see blood in your urine or semen.
Prostate Enlargement (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia - BPH)
This is very common in older men. It is believed to be caused by the effect of male hormones and the ageing process and may be an inherited condition. The main symptom is a difficulty with urinating. Sometimes men can get infection in the bladder or urethra known as urinary tract infection (UTI). It is important that an accurate diagnosis is made and treatment started to prevent complications.
Prostatitis is common and is an inflammation of the prostate gland caused by bacterial infection, possibly from a urinary tract infection. It may cause difficulty in urinating and can also cause pain in the rectum, penis, testicles and lower back. It may even cause a temperature.
Prostate cancer is the growth of the prostate caused by a tumour. It is rare in men aged under 40 but becomes more common as age increases. The older the person, the slower its development tends to be, taking perhaps 10 years to become significant. The main symptoms are similar to those of enlarged prostate - difficult urination (peeing) or blood in the urine or semen.
If you start to have difficulty urinating or have other symptoms described above it is important to see your GP.
Women's Health Issues
All women go through the menopause at some stage. Most women begin to experience menopause symptoms when they are aged between 45 and 55. A small number of women may experience an early menopause much sooner. In this situation women should seek advice and may benefit from coming to our menopause clinic for an assessment of their needs and to discuss any concerns. If you have symptoms which are troubling you there are a number of practical steps you can take. Occasionally women going through the menopause can be helped by hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This is something you should discuss with your doctor and you can get specialist advice from our team at the menopause clinic.
For straightforward information and advice and visit www.menopausematters.co.uk.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS or PMT)
This can affect women of all ages but seems to be more common among as women reach their 40s, and especially approaching the menopause. About 30% of women have moderate to severe symptoms that begin to affect their relationships, work, and occasionally lead to thoughts of self harm. There are a number of things you can do to help yourself, though sometimes medication might be needed. If you would like specialist advice you can contact us and arrange to be seen at the PMS clinic.
Men's and Women's Sexual Health Issues
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI)
STIs can affect people of any age, gender and social background. Thankfully, based on figures collected in Scotland, we know that the likelihood of getting an STI gets less as you get older. However anyone, regardless of age, can pick up infection if they take risks. You can find detailed information on STI on this website. If you have a new partner you should never be embarrassed to discuss the risk of STI with them and if you have any concern you can seek advice from any of our clinics. Tests are quick and easy, and do not involve an examination. If you have any symptoms like pain, bleeding or discharge from the penis or vagina then a doctor will offer to examine you to check what the problem is. You can ask for a male or female doctor - whichever you feel most relaxed with - and every consultation is private and confidential. You will be offered a chaperone with you in the clinic if you need to be examined.
If you are in a new relationship you should always use condoms until you are sure you there is no risk of STI to either of you. You can read about safer sex on this website.
If you are in, or have had, a same sex relationship (men who have sex with men (MSM) or women who have sex with women (WSW) this website has important information to help with your sexual health and wellbeing.
Information and Services
Relate counsels couples of all ages and in all types of relationship (you do not have to be married). Visit www.relate.org.uk.
The British Heart Foundation has information about sexual activity and heart disease in the Any Questions section of their website at www.bhf.org.uk.
Arthritis Care provides practical information for people with arthritis. See www.arthritiscare.org.uk.
Diabetes UK (formerly the British Diabetic Association) has information on all aspects of diabetes, including sexual problems. Go to www.diabetes.org.uk.
Cruse Bereavement Care provides counselling for anyone who has been bereaved, practical advice and social contacts. Visit www.crusebereavementcare.org.uk.
It's not uncommon for people of any age to feel depressed or anxious, the links below provide access to information and support.
Depression Alliance is a self-help group for people suffering from depression. See www.depressionalliance.org.
The Edinburgh Mental Health Information Service website has lots of information about services and support for people with mental health problems and has a good range of self help booklets. Go to www.edspace.org.uk/.