Sexual Wellness Resource Center
For Adults over 50.

Let’s Talk About Sex in Later Life

By Michael Bates, M.D.

A new report reveals that while sex is important to older adults, communication about sexual health is lacking

I just read an informative report on a poll taken in October 2017 by the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging. The poll asked a national group of adults age 65-80 about their perspectives on relationships, sex, and sexual health. The report is full of good information and I encourage you to read it.  

Here are some of the highlights:

  • 40% of older adults indicated that they were sexually active.

  • 72% reported having a current romantic partner: married, partnered, or in a relationship. 76% agreed that sex is an important part of a romantic relationship.  Men were slightly more likely to agree than women.

  • “Sex is important to my overall quality of life.” 54% of older adults agreed with this statement, once again weighted slightly in favor of the male gender. Those with a partner were more likely to agree than those without a partner.

  • 65% described being interested in sex, again weighted to the male gender.

  • 73% said they were satisfied with their sex life. This time, the female gender outweighed the male. Those with a partner and those in better health were more satisfied with their sex life compared with those without a partner or in poorer health.

The statistics go on, however the message is clear. Sex is important for most older adults. Interestingly, whether in better or worse health, sex was reported to be important to their quality of life. Those in poorer health reported in engaging in sex less frequently.   

Communication about sexual health

The study also looked at communication between partners and with their doctors. Both showed room for improvement. Only 1 in 3 indicated that they would talk with their partner about sexual health problems. Fewer than half of those who spoke with their health care provider said it was the doctor who initiated the conversation.

What is considered sex?

It isn’t clear from the study what these older adults considered to be sex and that warrants further exploration. As we have talked about on these pages, sex is more than vaginal penile intercourse—much more.

Embracing this wider view opens up a whole new world of intimacy, pleasure and sexual wellbeing.

You can find the report on sexuality and aging here. Enjoy the read.

References

Solway E, Clark S, Singer D, Kirch M, Malani P. Let’s Talk about Sex, National Poll on Healthy Aging, Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, University of Michigan and Innovation May 2018. Available at: http//hdl.handle.net/2027.42/143212

 

About the Author

Michael Bates, M.D.

Dr Bates practiced obstetrics and gynecology for 34 years in Wichita, Kansas, until his retirement in 2011.

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