New findings from the National Poll on Healthy Aging have revealed that many older Americans are still enjoying an active sex life well past the age of 65 but have also highlighted the need for them to seek advice and help from medical professionals about sexual health.
Carried out by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, and sponsored by AARP and Michigan Medicine, U-M's academic medical center, the survey questioned a nationally representative sample of 1,002 people ages 65 to 80 about their sex lives.
The responses show that 45 percent of people between the ages of 65 and 80 are sexually active, nearly 75 percent have a romantic partner and 54 percent of those with a partner are sexually active. In addition, 73 percent reported that they were satisfied with their sex life. Whether or not they were sexually active, nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said they're interested in sex, and more than half say sex is important to their quality of life.
Interest in sex did appear to decrease with age however, with those between the ages of 65 and 70 nearly twice as likely as those in their late 70s to be sexually active, and with 33 percent of those in their late 60s saying they were extremely or very interested in sex, compared with 19 percent of those in their late 70s.
The poll also revealed some gender differences, finding that overall 31 percent of women were sexually active compared with 51 percent of men. Half of men aged 65 to 80 also reported being extremely or very interested in sex, compared with just 12 percent of women, with the researchers commenting that the gender gaps found may create challenges for relationships.
To find out how participants resolved sexual problems in order to have a healthy and satisfying sex life, the poll also asked participants if they've talked with their doctors about their sexual health. Despite 62 percent of the older adults reporting that they would talk about any sexual health problems with their health provider, only 17 percent had actually done so in the past two years. Most also reported being the one to raise the topic, suggesting the need for more proactive conversations from health care professionals.
"Sexual health among older adults doesn't get much attention but is linked closely to quality of life, health and well-being," says U-M's Erica Solway, Ph.D., co-associate director of the poll ."It's important for older adults and the clinicians who care for them to talk about these issues and about how age-related changes in physical health, relationships, lifestyles and responsibilities such as caregiving, affect them."