7 Facts No One Tells You About Physical Intimacy As You Get Older

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There are plenty of things nobody tells you about sex as you get older, including how much the experience can change and evolve. Like sex at any age, there will be highs and lows, and moments when you're just not in the mood. And that's all OK.

"Attitudes toward sex change over the course of a lifetime and each person’s journey is unique," Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Astroglide’s resident sexologist, tells Bustle. "You might find that you can take more time to engage in sex play with less pressure as you age [...] and you might also find a stronger voice to ask for what you want."

Many people find that they actually enjoy sex more as they get older, which can come as a surprise to some due to the stereotypes we often see reinforced on screen. In reality, data from Kinsey Institute’s Sex, Reproduction and Gender research found that "28 percent of Americans over age 45 report they had sexual intercourse once a week or more in the last six months, and 40 percent report having intercourse at least once a month," Dr. O'Reilly says.

Of course, not everyone — at any age— can or wants to have a lot of sex, especially if they're experiencing hormonal shifts, or other physical changes that make it uncomfortable. But there are solutions to this.

"If you find that your physical response to sexual stimuli has changed, you have many options including using a new lube or vaginal moisturizer, trying different types of sex (e.g. with a vibrator or oral sex), [or] visiting a pelvic floor physiotherapist (this is a game changer)," Dr. O’Reilly says. Here are some more interesting facts about sex as you get older, according to experts.

1. Sex Frequency Doesn't Drop Off As Much As You Think

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It's important to remember that sex drive is different for everyone, and the frequency of sex you are comfortable with is something you should define for yourself. And, contrary to popular notions, Dr. O’Reilly says, "[...] sex definitely doesn’t stop as you age."

Kinsey Institute’s Sex, Reproduction and Gender research has shown that folks that are 18 to 29 years of age have sex on average 112 times a year, which is about twice a week.

This is compared to people age 30 to 39, who have sex on average 86 times per year, or just less than over every four days or so, Dr. O’Reilly says. And people who are 40 to 49 have sex about 69 times per year. But, since sex drive isn't the same for everyone, it's important to take these stats with a grain of sat.

If you're worried that your sex life will screech to a halt as you get older, know that it doesn't have to be true. If you do, however, realize that you're less interested and don't want to be, or experience physical changes that make it uncomfortable, let your doctor know.

2. Physical Changes Can Make Sex Less Comfortable

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Speaking of physical changes, as people get older, it's not uncommon to experience symptoms that can make sex a little less comfortable, such as vaginal dryness.

According to WebMD, vaginal dryness is common symptom of menopause, which can begin around age 45. It also makes the vagina thinner and less elastic, which can add to the pain.

"While these symptoms are common, they are also very treatable," Chana Botach, relationship expert and founder of Sensual Revolution, tells Bustle. "Reach out to a medical professional who deals with women's sexual health [...] And [use plenty of] lube. Don't be shy with lube."

3. Life Can Get In The Way

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As you get older — and your responsibilities pile up — it can become increasingly difficult to cast them aside during romantic moments, "whether it be due to health scares, financial constraints, or even being swept up in the vortex of trying to find a work-life balance," therapist Essence Cohen Fields, LPC, tells Bustle. Your priorities may change as well, and if you're OK with that, there's no reason to feel like you have to be having more sex.

While it may kill the spark and make sex difficult, this change is something that anyone can overcome if they want to, no matter your age. "One thing you and your partner can do to reenter the honeymoon phase is to learn a new activity together," Fields says.

Whether it's taking a class together, going on a trip, trying new foods, or learning a new language, "being able to reconnect with your partner over a new activity allows you both to see one another in a new light and bring a refreshed perspective and intimate interest in one another."

4. Orgasm Becomes Easier With Age

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For anyone worried about their ability to orgasm as they get older, there's good news. As Dr. O'Reilly says, "Orgasm frequency increases with age."

According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, as a woman moves through her 40s, her orgasms can actually become more intense, and she can still have multiple orgasms.

This may have something to do with the freedom women feel once they hit menopause, and no longer have to consider or worry about pregnancy. Pretty interesting, right?

5. People's Attitudes Improve

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For anyone who spent their youth worrying about sex, or wondering how to ask for what they want in bed, there may be brighter horizons to look forward to.

"I find that people’s attitudes toward sex improve as they age for several reasons," Dr. O'Reilly says. "You’re less concerned with what other people think and more skilled at communicating your own needs, desire, and boundaries."

You also have more experience and thus "better understand what actually works for you," she says. And you can become more comfortable with your body, in general.

"Even as it changes, [you may start to] realize that it’s the vessel that carries you through life and you’ve wasted too much time not appreciating in your youth," Dr. O'Reilly says. This is why many women report having the best sex of their life in their later years, according to studies.

6. Sex Becomes Less Goal-Oriented

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When you're younger, sex can seem like it's all about reaching that orgasm. But even though women may feel that it's easier to orgasm as they get older, that doesn't mean it becomes their main goal.

"As you grow older, you may find that sex becomes less goal-oriented and more about touch and intimacy," Xanet Pailet, intimacy coach and author of Living an Orgasmic Life, tells Bustle. "Aging bodies and altered hormones can impact not only our desire, but our physical ability for intercourse."

That may mean issues with vaginal dryness or difficulty getting and keeping an erection. "This however does not mean that you can’t still have a wonderful connection, lots of intimacy and touch, and experience a tremendous amount of pleasure," Pailet says.

These changes can even open the door to new ways of being intimate, that you may not have considered before.

7. Women In Their 40s & 50s May Ask For What They Want More

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If you heard rumors that women have better sex lives as they get older, that very well may be true — for a variety of reasons.

"Women tend to peak sexually in their 40s and 50s because we have less shame about sex and are able to ask for what we want, especially if we were not satisfied in our previous marriage or relationship," Pailet says. "Many women have a sexual awakening in later life as we are somehow freed of the constraints that [may have been] put upon us by the dual and sometimes conflicting role of wife and mother."

Of course, everyone's different when it comes to what they want from their sex life, and what kinds of changes they may experience as they get older. For some people, they may have more and better sex as they get older. While for others, it may become more difficult, or not even be a priority.

For anyone experiencing things like pain during sex, or a lack of desire, there are ways around it. And even ways to embrace it while looking for others ways to be intimate.