The Linden Room of the Levy Senior Center, 300 Dodge Ave was filled as Dr. Jeffrey Albaugh, Director of Sexual Health at NorthShore University Health System, began his presentation on “Sexual Health and Natural Changes as We Age.” The presentation was the second featured Levy Lecture, a new program sponsored by the Levy Senior Center Foundation, a non-profit organization established to provide enrichment programs and activities for the benefit of seniors 55+ who frequent the Center.

Dr. Albaugh is a board certified Advanced Practice Urology Clinical Nurse Specialist and an internationally recognized speaker on the topics of sexual health and sexual dysfunction. Currently he runs the NorthShore University HealthSystem William D. and Pamela Hutul Ross Clinic for Sexual Health. He treats both men and women and has won numerous awards for excellent patient care. Dr. Albaugh’s research in sexual health has been funded by many sources including the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Albaugh is an expert at explaining complex health information in a way that non-medical professionals can understand. He is also a skilled communicator and comfortable discussing sensitive subjects – like sexuality, intimacy, and sexual problems – that might make others squirm. His open, upbeat personality and use of humor immediately put the audience at ease. Men and women alike sat rapt as he talked with compassion and understanding about one of the most basic drives human beings have, the need for touch and connectedness.

Communication between partners was one of the main themes of Dr. Albaugh’s presentation. He clarified some of the differences between sexuality and intimacy: sexuality is the sense of being male or female, whereas intimacy is the process when two people move toward “complete communication” and connectedness on all levels.

Dr. Albaugh explained how human beings need the feeling of being connected in order to thrive, but those same feelings make us vulnerable. Allowing oneself to feel vulnerable with another person can be very scary, but it is the only path toward love and creativity, according to Dr. Albaugh. Part of that vulnerability is learning how to communicate openly and honestly with your partner about sexual pleasure, which does not come naturally for most people. Practice helps!

Another theme of the presentation was understanding how men and women change as they age and the effects those changes may have on their bodies. It is essential to maintain good health overall as it affects one’s sexual health. Dr. Albaugh emphasized the importance of watching one’s diet, weight control, exercise (at least three hours of cardiovascular exercise per week), and managing medical problems.

Much of Dr. Albaugh’s work with his clinic and private patients focuses on issues of sexual impairment due to hormonal or physical changes to the body, sometimes due to disease or trauma as well as aging. Fortunately, there are many therapies available to address those issues, including counseling and behavioral therapy, pelvic floor physical therapy, hormonal therapy, vacuum devices, prescription medications, surgery, and herbs. Sexual and intimacy issues can be successfully resolved with patience and expert medical care.

As Dr. Albaugh wrapped up his lecture, he was inundated with questions
from the audience, which he patiently answered until he had to leave for his next patient appointment. The overriding message [Dr. Albaugh] communicated was that it is possible to enjoy sex and intimacy throughout one’s entire life. And if there is a “bump” in the road, don’t be shy: expert help is available.