Can Good Sex Keep You Young?
Sex and Seniors
Although it may gross out 20-year-olds to hear it (especially
about their parents), older people do continue to have sex, according to the
MacArthur Foundation report "Successful Aging" by John W. Rowe, MD, and
Robert L. Kahn, PhD. They cite a Duke University study published in the
November 1974 Journal of the American Geriatrics Society that found that
"at age 68, about 70% of men were sexually active on a regular basis"
but that this number dropped to 25% by age 78.
A more recent study, published in the January 1990 issue of the
Archives of Internal Medicine, reported that nearly 74% of married men
over 60 remain sexually active, as do 56% of married women. And an April 1988
study on "Sexual Interest and Behavior in Healthy 80 to 102-year-olds"
published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that 63% of men and
30% of women were still having sexual intercourse. "Given that by the age
of 80 or older there are 39 men for every 100 women, lack of oppportunity may
well account for a large portion of such gender differences," says Cindy M.
Meston, PhD, in her paper on "Aging and Sexuality," published in the
October 1997 issue of the Western Journal of Medicine.
While men may experience a gradual decline in sexual libido as
their testosterone levels slowly diminish, women experience a wider range of
effects as a result of the more complex hormonal changes that occur with
menopause. Some, like Eileen Smith, 70, a nurse in Laguna Beach, Calif.,
experience no decrease in sexual desire through the years, although she
attributes that to the fact that she began hormone replacement therapy at the
first sign of hot flashes. "In my own case, intensity of desire was not
tied to menopause," she says, "but rather to the quality of the
relationships I was having at different times in my life." The mother of
two and grandmother of four, she said that years after her divorce, when she
was "crazy in love" at age 60, she experienced sexuality "as hot as