Rest assured, there is no upper limit on age when it comes to enjoying a sex life. So many people worry that they can out grow their need or desire for sex. Often, older people tend to be erroneously viewed as asexual people who have lost both their interest in sex and their capacity for sexual behavior. This simply is not true; rather, it is a stereotypical false-assumption at best.
Studies have shown that over 85 percent of people above the age of 50 enjoy a satisfying sex life, and 57 percent of people over 60 have active sex lives.
Older people tend to view sex in self-affirming and life-affirming ways, believing that sex is an expression of joy, passion, affection, admiration, and love. Sexual expression for older people helps them feel physically strong, emotionally healthy, and self-confident. It also helps reduce anxiety and increases relaxation. The reality of over-50 sexuality is that it is common and beneficial.
Many people over 50 believe that sex is more important in the twilight years than in their younger years because they have gained wisdom and understanding about the importance of sex within a relationship; understanding that it brings depth, intimacy, personal satisfaction, and meaning into their lives. When younger, many people did not value the importance of a healthy sex life as they have learned to appreciate with age.
On the negative side, older people struggle with sexuality in a variety of ways – and depending on gender. Women tend to struggle with sexuality as they age because they start losing their sense of belief in their “right” to enjoy a sex life. Some women “buy in” to the belief that to be sexual over fifty or sixty is to be “unappealing” or “distasteful;” particularly to those in a younger age group. In essence, they let supposed societal pressure keep them sexually avoidant or repressed.
Both men and women mainly face issues with sexuality in older age because of physiological changes. For women, some have been known to struggle with vaginal dryness and lack of desire due to changes in hormone balances. For men, physical problems often include impotence and other medical concerns.
However, the majority of older women whose sexuality is affected believe that it is because of their age; while, men with lowered sexuality believe it is caused by deteriorating health.
Another factor that has contributed to the loss of sex in a person’s life at an older age is the loss of one’s partner. However; this seems to affect women more so than men. Twenty percent of older women report lowered sexual activity because of a loss of their partner, while only 3 percent of men state this as a cause for diminished sexual activity.
There are some significant differences when it comes to interest in sexual and non-coital activity between the genders. Only 43 percent of older women claim to have much interest in sexual activity of any type – both coital and non-coital (such as hand-holding,) while 83 percent of men are interested in both non-coital as well as coital activities well into their senior years. This is a statistically significant difference between women over 50 and men over 50 with respect to desire for affection and sex.
Here is a table depicting these statistics taken from, “Sexuality: Desire, activity and intimacy in the elderly,” published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry in 2011:
SEXUAL INTEREST AND ACTIVITY
MEN OVER 50
WOMEN OVER 50
INTERESTED IN SEX DAILY
INTERESTED IN SEX WEEKLY
INTERESTED IN SEX MONTHLY
NOT INTERESTED IN SEX AT ALL
INTERESTED IN NON-SEXUAL TOUCH DAILY
INTERESTED IN NON-SEXUAL TOUCH WEEKLY
INTERESTED IN NON-SEXUAL TOUCH MONTHLY
NOT INTERESTED IN NON-SEXUAL TOUCH AT ALL
ACTIVE SEX LIFE DAILY
ACTIVE SEX LIFE WEEKLY
ACTIVE SEX LIFE MONTHLY
NOT SEXUALLY ACTIVE
Another interesting note about this study is that there seems to be a significant change in sexuality that occurs between the ages of 50 and 60 for seniors. The following table is taken from the same source as the previous one and depicts these changes:
REASONS STATED FOR LOSS OF SEXUAL ACTIVITY
LOSS OF JOB
LOSS OF PARTNER
There are some definite physical changes that occur with age in general. The main being, as mentioned previously, a woman’s decrease in vaginal lubrication as well as a man’s proclivity towards erectile dysfunction. In addition, it is reported that the majority of men over age 50 report a significant change in erection stiffness, which decreases with age.
However, these physical changes need not preclude sexual activity from occurring. Older people can adjust accordingly and with creativity in order to maintain satisfying sexual relationships for the remainder of their lives. This involves being aware of the reality of the situation and adapting.
While changes brought on by age can make a person’s sex life more difficult, there is still an internal drive and need for sexual fulfillment. This involves flexibility and motivation.
Kalra, G., Subramanyam, A. Pinto, C. (2011). Sexuality: Desire, activity and intimacy in the elderly. Indian Journal of Psychiatry. 2011 Oct-Dec; 53(4): 300–306.
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