Research shows 57- to 85-year-olds remain sexually active
Marital satisfaction may improve once kids leave the nest
"We're no longer propelled by our hormones," says one senior sex expert
Editor’s Note: Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, writes about sex and relationships for CNN Health. Read more from him on his website, Good In Bed.
Contrary to the recent musings of Miley Cyrus that sex goes kaput once you hit 40, there’s research to support that older people are right to have “great sexpectations.”
But research has shown that as people age, they don’t necessarily forget how to have a good time in the bedroom.
“Sex can be better after 40, 50 and 60 than it ever was in our 20s,” says Joan Price, a writer, educator and senior sex expert. “Now, we’re no longer propelled by our hormones – we’re having sex for other reasons: sexual pleasure and release, intimacy, joy, bonding, emotional well-being.”
As I discussed in a previous CNN column, sex therapist David Schnarch writes about the difference between a person’s “genital prime” and his or her “sexual prime.”
For most of us, the genital prime happens during adolescence and our 20s, when the body is in its best shape. However, the mind may not be as well-developed sexually. Schnarch says that a person’s sexual prime is actually well beyond what most of us think of as the hot-and-heavy sex years – more like middle age than high school.
So is senior sex actually something you should be looking forward to? Does it get better with age?
According to a study in the November 2008 issue of Psychological Science, marital satisfaction may actually improve once your kids leave the nest, and this higher satisfaction level extends to the bedroom.
In fact, many of my colleagues in the world of sex therapy claim that empty-nesters tend to have more disposable income and more opportunity to enjoy quality time with their partner.
Not only that but, as we age, we benefit from accepting ourselves as we are, knowing what we like, and not being afraid to ask for it.
The New England Journal of Medicine in 2007 published a comprehensive sex survey of 57- to 85-year-olds in the United States.
The survey involved two-hour, face-to-face interviews with 3,005 men and women around the country.
Researchers also took blood, saliva and other samples so as to learn more about hormone levels, sex-related infections, and other health issues. They even tested how well seniors could see, taste, hear, and smell – things that affect being able to have and enjoy sex.
Among survey respondents, 73% of those aged 57 to 64; 53% of those aged 64 to 75; and 26% of people 75 to 85 reported having sex with a partner in the previous year.
Of those who were active, most said they did it two to three times a month or more. Not only that, more than half of those aged 57 to 75 said they still gave or received oral sex, as did about a third of 75- to 85-year-olds.
Of course, not everything in your sexual future is rainbows and multiple orgasms. Sexual issues may arise at any age.
But in the case of this study, half of the sexually active respondents reported having at least one sexual issue to contend with. The most common issue for men was erection trouble (37%). As for women, they experienced low desire (43%), vaginal dryness (39%) and inability to have an orgasm (34%). In addition, one out of seven men used Viagra or other substances to improve sex.
Still, these issues don’t deter them. Just last year, research published in the British Medical Journal showed that 80% of 50- to 90-year-olds were sexually active.
Take that, Miley.