Many adults ages 65-80 enjoy sex: survey

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Sex is not just for the young: 40 percent of adults ages 65-80 say they are having sex and enjoying it, according to a new survey. | AP file photo

Sex is not just for the young: 40 percent of U.S. adults ages 65-80 say they are having sex — and even more of them, 73 percent, are satisfied with their sex lives, according to a new survey.

The survey, released Thursday, does show that sex declines with age and illness. It also finds that older men claim to be more sexually active and sexually interested than older women, but women report more sexual satisfaction.

Among seniors with spouses or partners, 54 percent said they are sexually active.

Overall, the survey shows that “sex is an important part of the lives of older people and a part that probably doesn’t get the attention it deserves,” said sociologist Erica Solway, associate director of The National Poll on Healthy Aging at the University of Michigan.

The poll periodically surveys older Americans on a range of topics. The sex survey was conducted online in late 2017 and included 1,002 randomly selected participants. It received funding from AARP, the aging advocacy group.

Among the findings:

• When asked whether they were “currently sexually active,” 46 percent of those ages 65-70 said yes, as did 39 percent of those ages 71–75 and 25 percent of those ages 76–80. The researchers did not define “currently,” so “some people could have been referring to the past couple of years while others were referring to the past couple of weeks,” Solway conceded.

• Sexual activity (also undefined by the pollsters) was reported by 51 percent of men but just 31 percent of women — a situation at least partly explained by the fact that more men remained married or otherwise partnered, Solway said.

• Sexual activity was reported by 45 percent of those who said their health was good to excellent but just 22 percent who said their health was fair to poor.

• Half of men but just 12 percent of women said they were “very” or “extremely” interested in sex.

• While 73 percent said they were content with their sex lives, 31 percent of men and 43 percent of women reported high levels of satisfaction. Those numbers suggest that at least some people having no sex were fine with that.

The age and gender patterns found in the new survey are roughly similar to those found in a larger sex survey of older adults published a decade ago by researchers from the University of Chicago. But the two surveys used different methods and therefore cannot be directly compared, Solway said.

The new findings reflect a diverse reality, said Joan Price, the author of several books about senior sex: “There are older people who are much freer sexually than some younger people, and vice versa.”

The poll also confirms something Price said she hears from her readers and audiences: Older people rarely discuss sex with their doctors, even when they are having problems. The poll found 17 percent had discussed sex with a health care provider in the past two years.

Too many people believe that “if things don’t work the way they used to, we might as well give up on sex,” Price said.

The poll found 18 percent of men and 3 percent of women had used medications or supplements to improve sexual functioning. But communication and experimentation often are more important, Price said: “We get to go on that wonderful journey of exploration to find out what does work now.”

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