Sexual Activity Among Older Populations

A senior couple on the beach.
A senior couple on the beach. Susan Chiang/Getty Images

Although Viagra and other drugs have long been marketed as the ticket to fixing changes in sexual performance as you age, we don't often talk about what actually goes on in the bedrooms of older adults.

For example, until recently, researchers have not explored how often older people have sex. They have not pinpointed what types of sex older populations have, or what health risks they are more likely to encounter. But newer research is shedding light on this topic.

Sexual Activity in Older Adults

It has come to the attention of the media that older adults are still having sex. Of course, this is no surprise to the older adults themselves. But for the rest of us, some of the statistics uncovered in recent studies have proved particularly enlightening.

For example, according to the Longitudinal Study of Ageing, 31 percent of British men from the ages of 80 to 90 still masturbate and have sex. And just under 60 percent of men between the ages of 70 and 80 are still sexually active.

Meanwhile, only 14 percent of women between the ages of 80 and 90, and 34 percent of women between 70 and 80, regularly engage in sex or masturbation.

A study conducted by researchers at Indiana University's Center for Sexual Health Promotion showed similar results. 46 percent of men and 33 percent of women over 70 reports that they masturbate and 43 percent of men and 22 percent of women in the same age bracket say they engage in sexual intercourse.

And a study by the National Commission on Aging (NCOA) shows that women, in particular, find sex over 70 as or more physically satisfying than they did in their 40s. Sex was also shown to be more emotionally satisfying for both genders.

Sexual Problems in Older Adults

These statistics aside, sex does change as you grow older. In many cases, sex and intimacy need to be redefined so as to remain a fulfilling part of one's life. As a woman ages, her vagina can shorten and narrow, her vaginal walls can become thinner and stiffer, and she will experience less vaginal lubrication. As men get older, impotence (also known as erectile dysfunction, or ED) becomes more common.

The causes for these changes in the body vary, but they are all natural byproducts of aging. Possible culprits, according to the National Institute on Aging, include arthritis, chronic pain, dementia, heart disease, and depression. Complications can also arise due to surgery, medications, and alcohol use.

In order to maintain a fulfilling sex life as you grow older, it can be crucial to rethink what intimacy means to you and your partner. What feels good as some parts your body begin to function differently? Do you still enjoy the same things in bed, or is it time to try something new?

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