Urologist, pelvic surgeon and sex educator Dr. Rena Malik creates content on YouTube designed to bust myths, dispel medical misconceptions, and share useful information on how to have a healthy, pleasurable sex life—and she believes that should be achievable at any age. In a recent video, Malik lays out her best practical advice for people aged 50 or over on how to still have great sex with their partners.
Take your time
“As you age, responsive desire becomes more common,” says Malik. Unlike spontaneous desire, where an individual becomes aroused instantaneously, responsive desire occurs as a reaction to direct sexual stimulus. “It doesn’t mean that anything is wrong, it just means that it takes a little bit more time,” she explains. “Spend time in that place of foreplay where you can actually feel each other, enjoy each other, in other ways before penetrative sex.”
Try morning sex
Studies have found that the body produces the highest levels of testosterone—a hormone responsible for libido, among other things—immediately after sleep.
“Your testosterone level can be correlated with how high your sex drive is, so it works with our circadian rhythm,” says Malik. “It’s highest in the morning, and continues to decrease throughout the day.” In addition to the high level of testosterone, she adds that the morning could be a better time to have sex rather than the evening, as fatigue will be lower.
With age, the genitals can experience a certain amount of numbness and therefore take longer to reach orgasm. “What I tell my patients is that if you look at the spinal cord, there are sensors that include pressure, temperature, vibration,” says Malik. “It’s important to experiment with different types of things that actually stimulate those different areas of the spinal cord. That can include using vibration with sex toys, using warming or cooling lubricants, different types of pressure or light sensation with feathers… or even using different things you can find with BDSM that may actually provide more sensation to your genitals or other areas of the body.”
Check in with your health
Malik recommends double-checking your medical history and what medications you’re on, as some pharmaceuticals can have side effects which reduce sex drive. If you are on meds which effect your libido, try speaking with your doctor about alternatives which might be suitable.
Specifically, when having sex with someone who is post-menopausal, Malik advises using vaginal estrogen. Women who are peri-menopausal or post-menopausal produce less estrogen, leading to less natural lubrication in the vagina. “Adding the lubricant can make sex less uncomfortable and actually a whole lot more pleasurable,” she says.
Use sex aids
This could be anything that helps with issues relating to balance, mobility, weakness or fatigue, for instance among individuals who have had a stroke or are recovering from an injury. Malik suggests foam positioning pillows and wedges as a more stable and comfortable alternative to regular pillows, or doorjamb swings that can help to safely position a partner in a way that makes it easier to perform certain sex acts.
Malik cites a study into how people in their 40s and 50s perceive their future sex life which found that those people who were most optimistic were more likely to have “more frequent and more satisfying sex” when they were re-interviewed 10 years later.
“The brain is the most powerful organ you have for sex,” she says.
Explore other options
“At some point for some people, unfortunately, they may not be having erections, they may not have access to care or may not be able to afford treatment for erectile dysfunction, in which case you can still have amazing, wonderful orgasms,” says Malik. “Get stimulated in other ways. Spend time with your partner and explore your erogenous zones.”
“Spend time with your partner without the expectation of penetrative sex,” she continues. “Find out what really turns you and your partner on, and you can still achieve orgasm without an erection.”
Philip Ellis is a freelance writer and journalist from the United Kingdom covering pop culture, relationships and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV.