Dating After 50 When You Have Medical Issues

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Blemishes, body odor, bad hair. These dating dilemmas are constant concerns no matter how old you are. But if you're 50 or older, dating takes on a new aspect: the medical conditions that develop as people age.

As you get older, stuff happens. Limbs get creakier, and sometimes hips, joints, and valves have to be replaced. You may be on medicines or take regular injections. It's not like when you were 25 and probably took your own health — and the health of others — for granted. It's important to think about what medical conditions you have, which conditions you need to talk about, and what modifications of mobility or health you're willing to take on for someone you're interested in dating.

Some diseases and conditions are definitely more likely post-50 than pre-50. Here are the ones you may encounter (or may have faced yourself):

  • Cancer: You probably remember a time when any kind of cancer was considered a death sentence. Now many kinds are curable, controllable, or still allow for very long life spans. But cancer can vary a lot depending on what part of the body is involved. Many people survive extreme bouts of cancer, but their bodies may be ravaged in the process; women who've lost one or both breasts, men who've had a prostate operation, or anyone who has had a body part removed may have psychological as well as physical scars. Tread lightly when you discuss these issues; the more supportive you can be, the better.

  • Depression: Everyone can get depressed once in a while, but clinical and chronic depression is different. If someone you meet has this problem and it's significant enough to tell you about it, he's probably on antidepressant or antianxiety drugs. These drugs can do a great job of balancing moods, but sometimes these drugs depress the person's sexual drive or ability to have an orgasm easily or at all. If you get close, you need to figure out how to address this issue together.

  • Diabetes: Diabetes can range in severity and responsiveness to treatment. Many people who are pre-diabetic can avoid the full-blown syndrome by devoting serious attention to diet and following their doctor's advice. Some of the drugs commonly prescribed to manage diabetes can suppress one's ability to be sexually aroused. It's worth a full conversation to see what impediments your date's condition puts in her way.

  • Heart disease: Good blood flow is important to every part of your body, and people who have a heart that doesn't pump out blood and recycle it correctly have reduced mobility. Many heart medicines affect sexual drive and ability. The good news, however, is that valve replacement is a modern miracle, and someone who has had valves replaced or fixed is often better than brand-new.

    Don't be scared if your partner has had heart surgery — it may actually be scarier to be with someone who hasn't had surgery but also hasn't seen a doctor to make sure his heart is functioning well.

  • Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis is much more common in women than men, but men aren't immune. There are medications to help stop bone loss, and some claim to also rebuild bone tissue, but someone with osteoporosis has to be careful about bone breakage, and this may affect the kind of activities he can do. If he's serious about doing the best he can, he'll do weight-lifting exercises and other bone and muscle strengthening activities. If you're a serious athlete and don't have the disease, you have to find out what restrictions, if any, osteoporosis places on your partner.

  • Reduced erectile function or vaginal dryness: It's a fact that blood doesn't reach the penis as effectively after age 50 (and really, after age 40) as it does when a man is in his 20s and 30s. That's not too much of a problem now that erectile function drugs have become commonplace. They're really effective, but if someone has a heart condition and can't use one of these drugs, there are good alternatives — everything from injectable shots (not painful, seriously!) to operations that install pumps that artificially inflate the penis. The average post-50 penis, however, doesn't get quite as hard as it used to and has a slower recovery period after ejaculation.

    Likewise, women post-menopause experience reduced blood flow to the vaginal area, and many have a harder time reaching orgasm and find that orgasm isn't quite the same. Some women experience pain during intercourse unless they use a good lubricant like Continuous Silkiness, Eros, Pink, or Pur; estrogen-based products like Estrace, Estring, or Vagifem; or non-estrogen-based tissue renewal products like K-Y Liquibeads or Replens.

Some medical conditions and disabilities may scare you because you don't have experience with them and don't know what they mean. If you do meet someone who faces one of these challenges, consider doing a little research on that issue before you react.

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