The Inevitable Cost of Aging
We men might appreciate the fact that many of us have exceeded our warranty if we remind ourselves that it has not been too many generations ago that the life expectancy of a man was only about 35 years. It would seem that Mother Nature had only guaranteed the peak performance of our reproductive equipment for the procreative years, and as men and women live longer, parts of the system begin to fail. I have observed that the inevitable sexual changes of the aging male begin somewhere between the ages of 45 and 55, varying from man to man in terms of when the changes become apparent and how rapidly they progress.
Sexual drive and urgency decrease
As men age, their testosterone levels begin to drop and with this hormonal decline, sexual desire diminishes. The compelling drive to mate lessens and the sense of urgency disappears. As one aging man had descriptively commented, "I still ask for it as often, I just don't beg for it as much!"
Spontaneous erections cease to occur
Men will recall when erections occurred frequently, rapidly and often quite unpredictably. Spontaneous erections at inappropriate times are common among adolescent males in their early and middle teens. An erection in school or in church has been a source of embarrassment for many young men, but at some point in life these spontaneous unexpected erections cease to occur. I am frequently amazed by the men who, in the sixth decade of life, believe they should still be getting spontaneous erections! Unfortunately, some men make the mistake of always comparing themselves with how they were as younger men, not how they compare with men of their own present chronological age. A man who is 60 and remembers how at 20 he became erect simply by looking at a woman, might believe that he is having more erectile problems than a 60 year-old should. His self-evaluation would most likely change, however, if he were to talk with other 60 year-old men and discovered that they also have lost the ability to firm up purely with visual stimulation.
Direct stimulation becomes necessary
A young man can think about sex and become aroused. He can look at a picture, or just fantasize and become erect. Watching his partner undress or even a kiss will bring will send blood rushing into the penis of a young man. Just caressing his partner's breasts is likely to trigger a firm erection. However, as a man ages, the thoughts that he has, the images he sees or the sensations he feels with his hands become less and less powerful. At some point in the process of aging it is likely that a man will only become erect in response to direct stimulation of his penis. This is the reason why one of the important factors in the maintenance of an aging male's ongoing virility is his partner's comfort with providing this stimulation, either orally or with her hands.
A man over 55 is increasingly likely to be disadvantaged by a partner who will not touch his penis. While it might seem unfair to cast blame on a man's partner, the reality is that as men age, they do need more and more help. That has nothing to do with a man's feelings of affection or level of desire it has a lot to do with his inevitable physical changes.
Continual stimulation is often necessary
You will note that a general theme is emerging. Because of the lack of sufficient arterial blood flowing in, the firmness of an erection suffers and blood continues to leak out through the veins. The man becomes increasingly vulnerable to distractions. However, if he has a cooperative partner, her direct stimulation not only helps him get an erection (neurogenic arousal), but her continued stimulation of his penis helps him maintain it.
The stability of an aging erection results from the physical stimulation of the touch- sensitive nerves in his penis, but also because his partner's caress helps him to focus his attention on his pleasure, and not on a fear of going soft. Psychologically the man is further aided by the perception of his partner as a sexual being who is willing to play with him and who has an interest in his arousal.
Erections take longer to achieve
When a young healthy man pushes blood into his penis, it is as though he is pushing water through a garden hose. The erectile tissue of the penis expands and hardens quickly as it fills rapidly with blood. However, after many years of clogging his arteries, the older man is pushing his blood through a narrowed passage, much like water being forced through a soda straw. Therefore, even with direct and continued penile stimulation, it takes an older man longer to achieve an erection than he would have in his youth.
The pre-ejaculate diminishes
The amount of Cowper's Gland fluid that seeps out of the end of a man's penis during high arousal diminishes and eventually might disappear all together.
Erections are not as firm as they once were
Because blood must be packed quickly into the bundles of erectile tissue in order for this tissue to swell and trap the blood, the slower the arterial flow into the penis, the more likely it is that some blood will simultaneously be escaping out through the veins. The result might be that there is just not enough blood rushing in to offset what is leaking out. Hence, an erection that you could no longer hang your hat on!
The angle of the erection changes
The erections of young men uniquely point in many different directions. For some of these men, the angulation is such that his erection points skyward. For others, their firm erections point straight ahead, while for others, their fully erect penises point down. Not only will the angulation decrease due to a lack of firmness, but the length and circumference will change as well and, unfortunately, not for the better.
Erections become unstable
A highly aroused young man reaches a point in his excitement when his erection becomes locked in. This is a secure erection. If that young man is in the midst of making love and the phone rings, he can get out of bed, walk down the hall to the phone, talk to his mother for five minutes, and then walk back to the bedroom with the same erection. That's a secure one! At some point in life, however, hearing the phone ring will cause the loss of firmness, and eventually just the thought of the phone ringing could result in a lost erection. This loss of stability is related to the mental distraction, as well as the fact that the aging penis has not firmed up to the point that swollen erectile tissue is trapping all the blood. If there is leakage, the insecure erection becomes vulnerable to the devastation a disruptive thought or an anxious feeling can bring.
Firmness might wax and wane
Once more, the culprit is the slow inflow of blood and the failure of the erectile tissue to lock in the erection. As a result of this insecurity, the firmness of an erection might wax and wane and might be lost altogether if the man focuses on this instability and panics. The desperate thought, "Oh gosh, oh gosh, oh gosh, I hope I don't lose this," often precede the loss.
A longer period of stimulation is needed to ejaculate
For some aging males, it takes longer to ejaculate than it did as a young man. For some men who had been rapid ejaculators, this might be one of the few physical advantages to growing older. On the other hand, for other men, the amount of time necessary to reach orgasm can become frustrating for both them and, quite likely, their partners. This can become even more of a concern if one or both have lost physical agility, have become more easily fatigued, or experience muscle or joint pain.
A closing window of opportunity
When erections become unreliable and orgasms less predictable, it might be that some men will begin to realize that there is a limited time frame in which they might be able to ejaculate, but if that window closes, the opportunity is lost. For a young man, continued stimulation and the postponement of ejaculation heightens his arousal and holds him on the brink of an inevitable orgasm. However, for the aging male, delaying his ejaculation might result in the numbing of his penis and a lost opportunity. Men need to think about their own response and wonder if at times a "quickie" would be just what the doctor ordered.
Ejaculations can become elusive
For young men, an erection typically means the ejaculation is guaranteed if given half a chance. However, as older males, these same men might discover that there are times when they just can't get there, no matter how hard they try. Even though their erections might remain as long as there is direct and continuous physical stimulation, the internal feelings are of having gone numb. Typically, these erections will be lost quickly once the stimulation ends. The saving grace for these men in this situation is that there is usually no significant physical discomfort or mental frustration associated with these failures to ejaculate, unlike the physical ache and mental anguish they would have experienced when younger.
The volume and velocity of the ejaculate decreases
The amount of semen decreases, as does the force with which it is expelled. The aging male can no longer spurt large amounts of ejaculate over great distances. At some point the aging male will discover that he is oozing smaller quantities of semen, although it is still teeming with sperm if he has not had a vasectomy.
Diminished experience of orgasm
Along with the diminished amount and velocity of the ejaculate, men at some point in their aging process will begin to experience a lowering in the intensity of their subjective experience of orgasm. The decrease in the strength of the internal contractions not only accounts for the loss of velocity, but also the dampening of the intensity of the experiential component that mental feeling of orgasmic pleasure.
For some aging males, intensity will vary. Some might be quite intense, while other orgasms almost go unnoticed. Some older men are uncertain if they ejaculated, even though they did.
You will recall that men have what has been called a refractory period, the time each man requires before he is able to follow up one ejaculation with another. (This is the period between ejaculations, not the ability to obtain another erection, which might happen sooner and more easily that having another orgasm). For some men, at their best, this refractory period might be 30 minutes (give or take), and for others three days (more or less). The point is, each man seems to have his own unique refractory period, either shorter or longer than others. However, regardless of the length of time a young man needed to recover, as he ages this man will experience a need for more and more intervening time before he is once again able to ejaculate.