Age is no barrier to an active love life, research shows. For among the 70s, more than half of men and almost a third of women say they are still sexually active. Of these, one in three say they have sex at least twice a month.
The University of Manchester study was the first of its kind to include men and women aged 80-plus. It also found that love and affection stand the test of time, with many in their 70s and 80s saying they still indulge in frequent kissing.
Researchers did not examine why older men tend to be more sexually active than women, but it may be that they are more likely to have a younger partner. A woman’s longer lifespan is also thought to be relevant, with older women more likely to be widowed and thus living alone for longer.
But as women get older, they believe that quality is more important than quantity where their sex lives are concerned, for the study revealed that while some have fewer nights of passion as they get older, they enjoy them more. Researchers said this is probably because older women accept that their sex lives are not going to improve.
The study of more than 6,000 English men and women aged 50-plus found that poor health and the loss of a partner are bigger obstacles to having sex than lack of desire.
Researcher David Lee said: ‘We hope our findings improve public health by countering stereotypes and misconceptions about late-life sexuality, and offer older people a reference against which they may relate their own experiences and expectations.’
The study, published in the German-based journal, Archives of Sexual Behaviour, showed older Britons to be far from prudish about discussing their most intimate moments. Less than 3 per cent of those who took part refused to answer direct questions about their sex lives.
Dr. Lee said doctors should not be shy about broaching the subject. ‘A minority of older people remain sexually active but that minority is still quite a number of people who could arguably benefit from more open and equitable healthcare,’ he said.
‘Sexual health shouldn’t just be swept under the carpet.’
Caroline Abrahams, of the charity Age UK, said: ‘The fact this is the first time that people over 80 years old have been included in this kind of research highlights how often the public health needs of older people, including sexual health, are ignored or overlooked. With an ageing population it is important that providers of sexual health services understand the needs of older people in both clinical settings and when developing information and advice.’