Many seniors are physically healthy and active, including sexually.
"People don't lose their passion," one senior says. "They don't
lose wanting to be held, to be touched, having physical contact with another
Seniors having sex is perfectly normal, says Beverly Whipple, PhD, a
professor of nursing at Rutgers University and president of the American
Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, even though the idea
may be foreign or even repulsive to younger people. "We grew up thinking
that anyone over 65 who is interested in sex must be a dirty old man or
By Ayana Byrd
Have you ever wondered why we kiss? It's actually a strange way to spend your time lips smooshed together, breath (good or bad) mingling, and let's not even get into the tongue action. Yet we love it. We cheer when movie characters seal their happily-ever-afters with a smooch. A bodies-pressed-together kiss can make you remember why you adore the man who was annoying you just a minute ago. Why is that? "For some women, kissing is even more intimate than intercourse," says...
But these days, people are living longer and staying healthier. A woman's
life expectancy is now 81, and a man's 76, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
So it makes sense that they would continue to pursue activities they have
enjoyed throughout life -- including sex.
Not all seniors continue to have sex, of course. But the healthier a senior
is, the more likely he or she has a healthy sex life as well, according to a
sexuality survey of nearly 1,400 adults aged 45 and older commissioned in 1999
by AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Persons. Sexual activity,
the survey concludes, "declines with age for both men and women as health
declines or they lose partners."
Among those with sexual partners, 25% of those 75 and older said they have
sex once a week or more often, as do more than 60% of respondents aged 45 to
59. And 70% of all those with partners said they have sex at least once a
Sixty-seven percent of the men and 57% of the women also said a satisfying
sexual relationship was important to their quality of life. And as the years go
by, older people said they still view their partner as romantic, physically
attractive, or both. In both age groups, two out of three respondents who had
sexual partners said they were either "extremely" or "somewhat"
satisfied with their sex lives.
New Toys for Seniors
Surveys aren't the only indication that senior sex is here to stay. The most
loyal subscribers of the "Sex Over 40" newsletter published by the
Sinclair Intimacy Institute in Chapel Hill, N.C., are "way over 40,"
according to Mark Schoen, PhD, director of sex education for the institute.
Older Americans are not just reading about sex, they are also big purchasers
of the explicit videos the institute sells. They also buy "the same kind of
sex toys, such as vibrators, as 30-year-olds," says Schoen.
"Grandmother and Grandfather may not talk like 20-year-olds, but they are
still sexually active."
Better Loving Through Chemistry
And if a how-to video or a newsletter doesn't help, medication may come to
the rescue by helping sexually active seniors to maintain overall health or to
specifically solve their sexual problems. According to Meredith Art, a
spokeswoman for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, there are
450 medicines in the pipeline for heart disease, cancer, and stroke, the
leading killers of older Americans, plus another 191 drugs in development to
tackle major causes of disability among seniors, such as Alzheimer's disease,
depression, and arthritis.
Nine drugs for sexual dysfunction are also in development. So if Viagra, the
much-touted erection-inducing drug, doesn't do the job, there might be other
choices soon for both men and women.
Joe Volz, 65, of Washington, D.C., a newspaper reporter for
40 years, wrote for The New York Daily News (where he was a Pulitzer
Prize finalist), The Washington Star, and The Washington Daily
News. For the past decade, as a syndicated writer for 200 newspapers, he
has covered issues of interest to older Americans.