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More Sex for Older Adults

Health Sex Lives are Part of Healthy Aging

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Updated January 12, 2009

Sex and Older Couples

Sex and Older Couples

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Sex for older adults is becoming more common and more satisfying. It used to be that, as people got older, sex would become a thing of the past. Now, people age 70 and beyond are reporting having active, fulfilling sex lives. Personally, I think this is fantastic. Sex is part of a healthy, well life and having a great sex life as a person ages is wonderful. As more and more of the baby boomers age and our society becomes older, we’ll see and hear more about sex and the older adult.

Sex In Sweden

Since 1970, researchers in Sweden find 1,500 people who are 70 years old that year and ask them about sex (well, they probably ask them some other questions too, but the ones about sex are the really interesting ones, right?).

Sex and Attitudes Change Over Time for Older Adults

One very interesting thing about the Swedish data is that we can compare sex in the 70s to sex today for older adults. For example, in 1971 only 52% of 70 year old men said they were having sex compared to 68% these days (among married men). The married women reported having less sex with 38% saying they were having sex in 1971 compared to 56% now. So the married men are having more sex than the married women. Hmmm. It seems the men may be lying to someone (either to the researchers or to their wives).

For unmarried older adults (remember, only people who were 70 in the survey year were asked questions), things have gotten more active to. In 1971, 30% of single men and less than 1% of single women reported having sex. Now, 30% of single men and 12% of single women are report having sex.

Okay, But How Much Sex Are They Really Having?

Older adults are having more sex than you would think. Of all the sexually active older adults, 25% report having sex at least once a week (compared with 10% in the 1970s). Not only that, but at least half of the men and women said that their relationships were “very happy.”

But It’s Sweden, Not the United States

Experts in the field have good reasons to believe that sex for older adults in the U.S. is much the same as for older adults in Sweden. The patterns of development and change are similar enough that we should suspect that our seniors here in the U.S. are a pretty sexually active bunch. Why Are Older Adults Having More Sex? A couple of reasons:
  • People are living longer and are healthier. The average 70 year old today is healthier than the average 70 year in 1970 and has a longer life expectancy.
  • Sexual dysfunctions are readily treated. Men have access to a number of medications (like Viagra) to treat erectile dysfunction.
  • The culture has changed. Older adults expectations are different that they were in the 1970s (remember, a 70 year old interviewed in 1971 was born in 1901 –- a lot change since then).
More About Sex, Aging and Older Adults

Source(s):

Nils Beckman, Margda Waern, Deborah Gustafson, and Ingmar Skoog. Secular trends in self reported sexual activity and satisfaction in Swedish 70 year olds: cross sectional survey of four populations, 1971-2001. BMJ 2008; 337: a279

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