Sexuality has become a medical issue in association
with aging. This is due to a number of factors, including
increasing age of survival, a positive societal construct that
promotes sexuality as important for quality of life as we
age, and the medicalisation of sexuality with the advent of
prescription medications to treat sexual dysfunction.
This article reviews the factors surrounding aging and
sexuality and also considers special situations with age,
such as institutionalised care and the possibility of elder
Normal physiological changes with aging affect both
genders in terms of sexual desire and performance. Other
medical conditions increase with age, and these and their
treatments will impact on sexuality and the way it can be
expressed. Medical practitioners require an understanding
of these changes in order to find ways to optimise sexual
function in older patients.
In Australia, 'older people' are defined as those being over 65 years of age; and the proportion of the population in this age group is steadily increasing. In the 12 months to 30 June 2009, the number of people aged 65 years and over in Australia increased by 85 800, representing a 3.0% increase.1 This increase is due to a significant reduction in mortality. The average Australian male has a life expectancy of 78.1 years and the average Australian female has a life expectancy of 83.0 years.1
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