Sexuality in older age

Sexual drive can be considerable at any age and for either gender. While the human body has some limits on the maximum age for reproduction, sexual activity can be performed or experienced well into the later years of life.

Diminishing physicial limitations

Although both male and female libidos will decline with passing age, this is not to say that desire for sex is lost completely. The female menopause has been linked to a loss of interest in sex and to a desensitivation of the genital area . In some cases sexual intercourse can even become painful for older women . However with the advent of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) treatments, the effects of the menopause are being lessened and women have more opportunity to continue to experience an active sex life. Treatments for erectile dysfunction are making it similarly possible for men to do so. Despite the aging of the population, little is known about the sexual behaviors and sexual function of older people.

This survey report the prevalence of sexual activity, behaviors, and problems in a national probability sample of 3005 U.S. adults (1550 women and 1455 men) 57 to 85 years of age, and it describes the association of these variables with age and health status.

The unweighted survey response rate for this probability sample was 74.8%, and the weighted response rate was 75.5%. The prevalence of sexual activity declined with age (73% among respondents who were 57 to 64 years of age, 53% among respondents who were 65 to 74 years of age, and 26% among respondents who were 75 to 85 years of age); women were significantly less likely than men at all ages to report sexual activity. Among respondents who were sexually active, about half of both men and women reported at least one bothersome sexual problem. The most prevalent sexual problems among women were low desire (43%), difficulty with vaginal lubrication (39%), and inability to climax (34%). Among men, the most prevalent sexual problems were erectile difficulties (37%). Fourteen percent of all men reported using medication or supplements to improve sexual function. Men and women who rated their health as being poor were less likely to be sexually active and, among respondents who were sexually active, were more likely to report sexual problems. A total of 38% of men and 22% of women reported having discussed sex with a physician since the age of 50 years. Conclusions: Many older adults are sexually active. Women are less likely than men to have a spousal or other intimate relationship and to be sexually active. Sexual problems are frequent among older adults, but these problems are infrequently discussed with physicians.

Sex drugs

There are several prescription medications currently on the market that are designed to extend and improve the sex lives of older men and women. Examples include Viagra and Cialis. The widespread use of these drugs has been said to have led to a sexual revolution amongst the elderly and the coining of the term the "Viagra generation".

Oral sex

Sexual behaviour is not limited to the purely penetrative; oral sex can still be experienced into old age by both men and women, as the experience is dependent on the pleasuring of nerves in order to convey the experience. The extent to which this such behaviour is possible and pleasurable will depend on how sensative to stimulation the relevant tissues have remained.

Health benefits

It has been suggested that an active sex life can increase longevity amongst the elderly. Indeed in the United Kingdom, a government health adviser even went so far as to officially promote the advantages to the elderly of such behaviour.

Psychological aspects

Humans have sex for several reasons. The primary reason is, of course, reproduction but sex also serves other purposes not related to the ability to reproduce. Sex is a tool to express love and it also provides the feeling of security and reconfirmes the feelings shared between two people regardless of age. Sex has also been shown to calm people in stressful periods which again is independent of age. Sex therefore has a symbolic value which is independent of age.

Potential limitations due to age

Although seniors should not be discouraged from having sex some special considerations should be made.


Arthritis may cause pain and discomfort when having sex. This can be relieved with pain relievers, surgery to replace the broken joint as well as changing positions, resting and staying fit.

Chronic pain

Chronic pain due to other age related health issues may also be a limiting factor but again this can be treated with drugs.


Diabetes is known to be a potential cause of impotence among men. This can, as discussed elsewhere in the article, be treated medically.

Social attitudes

Sex between eldery is often treated as a taboo by society. Whilst sex itself is a sensitive topic due to its private nature sex between seniors is often treated with extra care. This attitude is especially common among younger people and it has been suggested that this may be caused by younger people's belief that the lust and ability to have sex diminishes once the primary cause of sex is no longer present.

Representation in film and TV

The concept of active sexual relationships between older people has in recent years become a more mainstream topic. The film ''Something's Gotta Give'' starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton explores the relationship that develops between two people in later life.

The HBO series Tell Me You Love Me has caused controversy by showing several explicit sex scenes involving two senior citizen actors on the show, Jane Alexander and David Selby.

See also

Further reading

External links

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