40% of the elderly population are sexually active and 2/3 claim they are interested in sex, according to a survey conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) regarding sexuality in the third age
Certain health conditions can affect sexual function, it’s true, but many older adults still have sexual desires and feel they need that unique intimacy between partners, that sexual intercourse provide. This is in contrast to the common taboos and misconceptions regarding sexuality in the third age.
Most of us presume that only few mature men and women have sex, and that after a certain age sexuality becomes an insignificant part of life, or that we simply become indifferent towards sex. However, in practice, nothing can be farther from the truth. Just as no one over 60 quits eating good food, so is with sex. We all want to live in a complete and full way for as long as possible, and an active sex life is one of the things that makes our life experience more complete as humans.
The advancements of medicine, changing dietary habits and the awareness of the importance of physical activity have extended the average human lifespan to twice then what it was a century ago. More and more baby boomers are at their 60s and the life expectancy in the 21st Century is expected to extend beyond the age of 80. So now is the time for breaking stereotypes and old fashion attitudes towards sexuality in the older ages, so as to ensure that in the future, older adults do not have to live with the same prejudices that prevail today.
Research – Sex Could Make You Healthier in Older Age
Do not take for granted an approach that claims that the need for sex fades with age. Generally, research has found that age itself does not diminish significantly the need or desire for sex, and when a partner is available, regular sexual activity is definitely the standard – an AARP-Michigan university survey shows. The results break the usual stereotypes as to sex in the older age and reveal the main aspects of sexual health.
Among the findings:
- 40% of the people aged 65-80 are sexually active to a certain degree
- Almost 2/3 of the people at the aforementioned age range are in a romantic relationship and 54% of them are regularly sexually active
- Whether or not sexually active, nearly 2/3 of the participants claimed they are interested in sexual activity, and more than half said that sex is important for their quality of life.
- When asked if they are satisfied with their sex life, 73% out of 1002 participants answered – yes.
- As for the differences between genders, the most significant difference was the percentage of those who said they were extremely or very interested in sex: half of the men aged 65-80 compared with 12% of the women.
The authors concluded that the survey just confirms that the need for and interest in sexual intimacy doesn’t stop at a certain age. Furthermore, the sexual health of older adults is directly related to their quality of life, their well being and general heath, and it’s important that people in this age group will talk to their doctors about how age-related changes in their physical health, relationships and life-style affect them.
A research study from 2019, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, examined the sex lives of 2,577 men and 3,195 women aged 50 and older. Participants were asked whether they have experienced a decline in the last year in their level of sexual desire, frequency of sexual activity, or ability to have an erection (men) or become sexually aroused (women). Research results showed that older adults enjoy life more when they are sexually active: men and women who reported any sexual activity in the past year had significantly higher enjoyment of life scores compared with those who were not sexually active. Concerns related to sex life and problems with sexual function were strongly associated with lower levels of enjoyment of life in men and to a lesser extent in women. Additionally, men who were sexually active in later life continued to have better cognitive performance compared to those who were not. Furthermore, men and women who reported a decrease in the frequency of sexual activities were also more likely to experience a deterioration in how they rated their level of health.
Men who are sexually active in later life continue to have better cognitive performance compared to those who don’t. men with erectile dysfunction were also more likely to be diagnosed with cancer or coronary heart disease. However, it is important to note, that changes in sexual desire or function could be a result of early-stage undiagnosed disease.
Feel Good Hormones
Sexual activity, upon its many forms, can be fulfilling physically, intellectually, and even spiritually. It may be regarded as a form of exercise and even stimulate the brain and improve mental function. It’s not a secret that sexual intercourse can promote satisfaction and a general good feeling because during sex, endorphins are released and this generates a happy, elated feeling. Endorphins do not merely affect our mental health. Higher endorphin levels have a positive effect on the immune system – which may reduce the risk of heart disease. In addition, studies suggest that partners who engage in sexual intercourse are likely to have a closer relationship, while in romantic relationships the closeness to one’s partner is linked to better mental health.
Studies show that human contact is good for everyone, including the seniors amongst us. Oxytocin is a hormone released during orgasm in men and women, which has a role in creating a sense of bonding between partners as well as promoting a general sense of wellbeing. Elderly people who live in relatively social isolation usually lack opportunities for intimacy, which, as stated, may promote mental and physical health. In comparison, elderly people living in communities such as nursing homes, tend to have physical contact with their peers, even if they suffer from a decline in mental function, such dementia. An Australian study has recently found that patients seek sexual relationships during the earlier stages of these conditions. Another interesting fact is that petting and cuddling with animals has therapeutic effects, that have been shown to increase oxytocin levels among older people who may be deficient in the hormone, and there are nursing homes in which pets are allowed particularly for this reason.
The Physical Changes in Later Life
Some of the many physical transformations the body undergoes with age change the sexual experience. The blood levels of testosterone, the hormone which plays an important role in male sexuality, gradually decline throughout adulthood — about 1% each year after age 30 on average. As part of the aging process, the penis takes longer to become erect, and erection might not be as firm. Sometimes it takes longer to achieve full arousal and to experience orgasm and ejaculation. Once reaching 40 plus, erectile dysfunction also becomes more common, though there are various treatments that can help significantly. The entire male sexual response tends to slow down: there is a need for more manual stimulation to achieve orgasms, the plateau phase (the period between erection and ejaculation) is prolonged, orgasms are shorter and less strong, the penis loses its firmness rapidly after ejaculation, the time before erection can be achieved again might be quite long (in elderly men even up to a week).
However, although by the age of 60 and over all of the changes noted above are quite noticeable in almost all men, the pleasure they derive from sexual activity is not necessarily affected. So, should men in the golden age give up their sexual interest and the pleasure sexual activity offers just because of these changes? Of course not. And indeed, studies show that most men (unless there are underlying medical problems) are able to enjoy sex throughout their entire lifetime.
Understanding these changes, the solution consists on adopting a positive attitude and the ability to be flexible in adapting to this new situation. It is recommended to simply take everything more slowly and with patience, and realise that more manual stimulation is required. Engage in foreplay – perhaps much more than what you used to in your younger days. Communicate with your partner and share your thoughts about lovemaking and about what causes you more pleasure. Take time to explore all the aspects of sexual intimacy using all the senses and bring to the maximum your tactile skills.
The Company hereby clarifies that the information contained on the website is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical and healthcare advice, and does not constitute medical advice or opinion. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any medical condition or question you may have regarding a medical condition.