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Health

Sex after 60: You betcha, survey says

graphic September 28, 1998
Web posted at: 5:43 p.m. EDT (1743 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Almost half of Americans age 60 and up have sex at least once a month and one in four say they would like to have it more often, says a survey released Monday by the National Council on the Aging.

The survey of 1,300 people was funded by the Pfizer pharmaceutical company, maker of the male impotence drug Viagra.

"Our study debunks the prevailing myths about sexuality in older years," said James Firman, president of NCOA, in a statement. "For many older Americans, sex remains an important and vital part of their lives."

Thirty-nine percent said they are satisfied with the amount of sex they have even if they were having no sex at all. Men were about twice as likely to report wanting more sex.

The survey found 61 percent of older men and 37 percent of older women are sexually active. The survey credits the difference to women's longer life spans and lack of mates. Just 19 percent of widows and widowers in that age group are sexually active compared with 59 percent of married women and men.

Two-thirds of respondents said their sex lives are more emotionally satisfying now than when they were in their 40s, and 79 percent of men and 66 percent of women said that maintaining an active sex life is an important part of their relationship with their partner.

"This study underscores the enduring importance of sex among older men and women, even among these who report infrequent sexual activity," said Neal Cutler, NCOA's director of survey research. "When people are not sexually active, it is usually because they lack a partner or because they have a medical condition."

Marian Dunn, who heads the Sex Therapy Clinic at the State University of New York in Brooklyn, said older Americans need to be educated that sex is not bad for them. She added younger physicians often don't talk to older patients about sex due to what Dunn called misperception that older Americans are not actively involved in sex.

The survey questioned more than just sexual activity. It also asked seniors what qualities they seek in a partner. Nine out of 10 cited high moral character, pleasant personality, a sense of humor and intelligence.

More women than men said they were likely to seek financial security in a mate, while men where more likely to seek a partner who is interested in sex.

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