Love Is the Best Medicine
In 1984, Tina Turner asked the question "What's love got to do with it?" When it comes to your health, it turns out the answer is: quite a lot, regardless of your age! Better memory, stronger immune system, decreased risk of early death, lower cholesterol levels, and decreased pain levels are some of the benefits that can occur when you're in love. Remember falling in love and having butterflies in your stomach? That's your brain telling your heart to beat three times faster than normal, resulting in an increased blood supply throughout your body.
While the fountain of youth doesn't exist, love comes close. When you're in love, endorphins produced by the body increase blood flow to the skin, which helps keep it soft and smooth, and reduces the development of wrinkles. The increased supply of essential food and oxygen to skin cells also gives the face a pinker, healthier glow.
And, let's face it: Who doesn't love being in love? It just feels good. The emotional connection, the physical intimacy, the companionship…all can lead to improved physical and mental health.
What about physical intimacy among older adults: is it just holding hands and hugging, or is there more to it? According to a recent study, 54% of men and 31% of women over age 70 report they are still sexually active, with a third saying they have sex at least twice a month. The New England Journal of Medicine reports the majority of seniors who are married or have intimate partners remain sexually active well into their 80s.
Of course, as we age, our hearts may say "yes!" and our bodies may respond "wait a minute!" Often a lack of desire or inability to perform may slow things down. People of any age may feel hesitant about talking with their doctor about sexual issues. An open and honest discussion can often lead to solutions, which can result in a healthier and happier life, both physically and emotionally. Your physician can also address issues of safe sex, which many older adults may think only applies to younger people.
So, whether it's an emotional connection, companionship, a feeling of togetherness, or physical intimacy, if it feels good, do it! Your mind and body will thank you for it!