Data from the National Poll on Healthy Aging has revealed that 40 percent of people between the ages of 65 and 80 are sexually active, disproving common assumptions about the intimate lives of seniors.
Overall, however, 73% of people over 65 said they were satisfied with their sex lives. In fact, a survey of 1,002 Americans age 65-80 found that most older adults still care a lot about intimacy.
Overall, the survey shows that "sex is an important part of the lives of older people and a part that probably doesn't get the attention it deserves", said sociologist Erica Solway, associate director of The National Poll on Healthy Aging at the University of MI.
Sexual satisfaction and interest varies between genders as age increases.
For one, she said, women past menopause do not have to worry about pregnancy anymore.
A whopping 84 percent of the men participating in the survey said that sex was an important part of a romantic relationship.
Of course, people vary.
"Gender differences in perspectives on sex may result in differing expectations and challenges, even for long-term relationships", the study said.
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The report shows older men were more likely to be sexually active than older women (51% vs 31%) and were in good health (45% vs 22%).
That might be, in part, because men were more likely to have a partner, Solway said. However, there were differences in the attitudes of men and women. This confirms that adults of all ages can have a sexually active lifestyle.
That's not surprising, Solway said. Half of men aged 65 to 80 said they had this level of interest, compared with just 12 percent of women in the same age range.
It's possible that people were using medications that have sexual side effects, and sometimes the health condition itself might have hindered sex, she suggested. Sexual activity also declined, from 46 percent to 25 percent. In those cases, water-based lubricants, or possibly hormone therapy, could help, she said.
But while sex is still clearly happening with older couples, there's still silence around elderly sex. If both partners are happy and they have other ways of connecting, that is what matters, she said. 62 percent of seniors surveyed said that they would speak to a medical provider if they had a problem with their sexual health. Without chatting with a doctor, people may not be aware of the risks.
Past research has borne that out, according to Lawrence Siegel, director of education at the Sage Institute for Family Development, in Florida.
Doctors, in turn, are also uncomfortable, Siegel said, with very few having specific training in that area.