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Posted: July 29, 2008

For Today's Seniors, Their Sex Lives Just Keep Getting Better

More of today’s elderly population is continuing to have sex as they slip into old age compared to their counterparts of decades past, and more of them are having it more often with a more open-minded view of sex, according to a newly published study.


The study, published in the British Medical Journal, actually found that the sex lives of seniors today is vastly different – and better – than just 30 years ago.

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The findings derived from a study by Nils Beckman and colleagues from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, who studied attitudes to sex in later life among four representative population samples of 70 year olds in Sweden. Subjects were interviewed in 1971-2, 1976-7, 1992-3, and 2000-1. In total, more than 1,500 people, age 70, were interviewed about different aspects of their sex lives including sexual dysfunctions, marital satisfaction and sexual activity.


Over the three decades, the proportion of 70-year-olds reporting sexual intercourse increased, although interestingly, more married men say they are having sex than married women. Among married men, 68% were having sex, compared to 52% in 1971. Among married women, 56% were having sex, compared to 38% in the 1970s.


Unmarried seniors also reported an active sex life. Among the singles, 54% of the men and 12% of the women reported having sex, up from 30% of men and less than 1% of women in the 1970s.


The quality of senior sex also has improved, according to the study. Among those who remained sexually active, more than one in four seniors in 2000 reported having sex once or more a week. In contrast, only about 10% reported that frequency in the 1970s.


Senior sex does not appear to be promiscuous, instead centering on quality relationships. More than half of all surveyed men and women reported very happy relationships, compared to just more than one-third in the 1970s. On the whole, today’s 70-year-olds reported higher satisfaction with their own sexuality, fewer sexual dysfunctions and generally more positive attitudes to sexuality in later life than seniors who were interviewed in the 1970s.


Specifically, the number of women reporting high sexual satisfaction increased, more women reported having an orgasm during sex and fewer reported never having had an orgasm.


While the proportion of women reporting low satisfaction with their sex lives decreased, the proportion of men reporting low satisfaction increased. The researchers suggested that this might be because it is now more acceptable for men to admit "failure" in sexual encounters.


They also said the number of men reporting erectile dysfunction decreased, whereas the proportion reporting ejaculation dysfunction increased, but the proportion reporting premature ejaculation did not change. The emergence of erectile drugs probably account for some of this, they said.


Interestingly, both men and women blame men when sexual intercourse stopped between them. This finding tracks results of other studies on the topic in the 1950s and 2005-06.


According to Beckman and his research colleagues, "Most elderly people consider sexual activity and associated feelings a natural part of later life."


Beckman added, "I think it's very important for older people to know that it's quite normal to have sexual feelings, and it's important for health professionals to know that they are sexually active or would like to be, and they should take that into consideration."


While the research pointed to behavior among Sweden’s elderly, the researchers said the findings track United States reports about the elder US population.

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