Have you ever consulted your doctor about your aging, changing sexual responsiveness or about reclaiming your sexuality when you have a medical condition or take meds that make sex more difficult?
What happened when you asked your doctor for advice about older-age sex? How did he or she respond? Did you get the information you needed?
And for the benefit of the medical professionals reading this -- how would you have liked your doctor to respond to questions about sex? What advice would you give health professionals about how to talk to their older patients about their sexuality?
When I speak to audiences over 50 or open my email, I get this comment over and over: Older-age sexuality is a huge gap in the education of medical professionals.
I'm not dumping on doctors, just on their lack of training. A typical medical education includes very little on sexuality in general, and usually nothing at all about the special challenges of sex in later life. I keep meeting doctors, nurses, therapists, and alternative practitioners who are hungry for information for their patients and clients -- and often for themselves.
And yet, as you see if you read Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex, the problems we face do have solutions. Knowledge exists, whatever the issue! Experts exist in specialized fields such as sexuality after cancer, vaginal pain, erectile dysfunction, to name just a few. Sex educators are working to spread this knowledge, but it's slow going.
I've heard from women who have read my book and ask, "Why didn't my doctor ever tell me that I have to 'use it or lose it'?" These are usually older women who are not in relationships right now and didn't realize the importance of internal massage, regular orgasms and Kegels to keep their vaginas tuned up and healthy, or penetration in the future might be painful.
Many women who didn't know that lubricants and sex toys can enhance their sexual pleasure -- solo or with a partner -- by heightening arousal and speeding up orgasm. They thought that slow arousal and difficulty reaching orgasm were a part of aging that they had to accept. I'm distressed that many doctors tell women this -- often without running tests to see whether hormone levels or other conditions which may be treated might be affecting sexual response.
Men report to me, "My doctor says I don't get erections because I have ED." ED isn't a diagnosis -- it's a symptom. Men need to insist on tests to find out why they have ED. It might be an early sign of a disease that can -- and needs to -- be treated, like heart disease.
Health professionals do want information. It's happening. Slowly.
You can make the change happen faster. Don't be shy about bringing up sexual pleasure and sexual difficulties with your health professional. Ask questions directly. Ask whether timing meds that cause difficulty with arousal or changing to different meds will get you feeling zesty again. If your doctor doesn't know the answers to your questions, ask for a referral to someone who does.
If your doctor evades the topic or tells you, "It's just part of aging," get another doctor. Seriously.
I'm starting to get invitations to speak about senior sex to doctors, therapists, nurses and other health professionals, and I want to be sure I'm including your views as well as my own. Please feel free to comment here or contact me directly.
Ageless sexuality advocate Joan Price is the author of Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex and Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty. Naked at Our Age won Outstanding Self-Help Book 2012 from the American Society of Journalists and Authors and Best Book 2012 from the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and the audiobook has been nominated for an Audie. Joan edited the new steamy senior sex anthology, Ageless Erotica. Visit her zesty, award-winning blog about sex and aging at http://www.NakedAtOurAge.com, where Joan continues to talk out loud about Boomer/ senior sex, partnered or solo.