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New research sheds light on the sex lives of older Americans

By Shannan Rouss ; Updated May 04, 2018
Seventy-six percent of older adults say sex is an important part of a romantic relationship at any age.

If you’re worried about your sex life stalling after a certain age, fear not: According to results from the National Poll on Healthy Aging, 40 percent of seniors are still having sex — and 73 percent of them say they’re satisfied.

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Other findings that challenge conventional notions about aging? Nearly two-thirds of older adults ages 65 to 80 say they’re interested in sex, and more than half say sex is important to quality of life. Interestingly, 84 percent of men agree that sex is an important part of a relationship, compared to 69 percent of women who agree with the statement.

That wasn’t the only gender divide. The poll, conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation and sponsored by AARP and Michigan Medicine, also found that women are less likely to be having sex (31 percent of women say they’re sexually active, compared to 51 percent of men).

While women on the whole may be having less sex, they don’t seem bothered by it: Forty-three percent of women say they’re “extremely” or “very” satisfied with their current status, versus 31 percent of men.

When it comes to giving their libido a boost, 18 percent of the men and 3 percent of women surveyed say they’ve taken medications or supplements to improve sexual function in the past two years.

The poll also looked at whether seniors talk with their doctors about their sexual health, finding that only 17 percent of them had in the past two years. And it was more often the patient who brought up the topic, not the M.D.

The message to health care providers: It’s time to take a more proactive role in the conversation (aka “let’s talk about sex”).

“This survey just confirms that the need for and interest in sexual intimacy doesn’t stop at a certain age,” said Alison Bryant, Ph.D., senior vice president of research for AARP, in a statement. “Although most older adults say that they would talk with their doctor about sexual concerns, health care providers should routinely be asking all of their older patients about their sexual health and not assume that bringing up the issue will offend or embarrass them.”

After all, by the time you reach 65, talking about sex really shouldn’t be making you blush!

Read more: 10 Not-So-Obvious Things That Are Killing Your Sex Drive

What Do YOU Think?

Are you surprised that many seniors are still sexually active? Which findings did you find most unexpected, or not unexpected at all? Do you anticipate you’ll still be having sex in your 70s and beyond? Let us know in the comments below!

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About the Author

Shannan Rouss is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles. She has written for magazines including Self, Prevention, Glamour and Cosmopolitan, and her work has appeared online at MSN.com, mom.me and elsewhere.

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