Sex After 70: Intimacy Among Older Adults

65% of those aged 65 to 80 are still interested in sex, and 23% of those aged 75 to 85 report having it at least once a week or more.
split screen image featuring a graphic depicting that 65% of elderly adults have sex two to three times per month with a photograph of a happy elderly couple cuddling in bed together on the right
Updated:September 2023

Many senior citizens are having sex, a lot more frequently than you might think — in fact, 65% of those aged 65 to 80 report being interested in sex, and 40% of them report being sexually active [1].

While sexual desires, preferences, or performance and function might look a little different after 70, sex is still frequently enjoyed and celebrated well into the golden years.

Key Statistics To Know:

  • According to a national poll, 65% of respondents in their elder years aged 65 to 80 are still interested in sex. [1]
  • Over half (54%) of respondents aged 65 to 80 agreed that sex is important to their overall quality of life, with more men (70%) agreeing than women (40%). [1]
  • 40% of elderly respondents aged 65 to 80 said they were sexually active. [1]
  • 54% of the respondents aged 75 to 85 years old reported having sex as frequently as at least two to three times per month. [11]
  • 23% of 75 to 85-year-olds reported having sex as frequently as once per week or more. [11]
  • Older sexually active people statistically have lower rates of condom use than younger sexually active people, which raises concerns about the risk of STIs for elderly people. [4]
  • Chlamydia cases in Americans aged 55 and up increased by 86% between 2014 and 2018, while syphilis cases rose 120% and gonorrhea cases rose 164%. [13]
  • Overall, there is a reduced emphasis on safe sex behaviors for those over age 65, and reduced sexual education at this age, which may be why the elderly often exhibit lower levels of STI and STD knowledge. [14]

In this article, we will address what sexuality looks like during the golden years, including preferences and desires, how sex changes for women and men, frequency of sex after 70, health considerations, and STI rates among the elderly population.

Sexual Preferences And Desire After 70

donut chart depicting that 65% of those aged 65 to 80 are still interested in sex
  • According to a national poll, 65% of respondents in their elder years aged 65 to 80 are still interested in sex. [1]
  • Over half (54%) of respondents aged 65 to 80 agreed that sex is important to their overall quality of life, with more men (70%) agreeing than women (40%). [1]
  • Research has found that sexual experiences among elderly people tend to incorporate higher levels of intimacy, emotional bonding, and caring. [8]
  • Sexual activity among the elderly is positively associated with past frequency of sexual behavior, as well as their partner’s interest in sexual activity. [6]
  • In a 2020 research study where 495 elderly participants aged 65 to 98 years old were interviewed, the findings revealed that factors such as tenderness, care, positive communication, support, and trust were important for elderly people who were sexually active. [7]

For many people, at any age, sexuality is considered to be an important aspect of overall well-being.

Often, the way people have sex will shift when they’re older.

This may be due to physical changes, such as erection problems, that require approaching sex differently than in the past.

Mentally and emotionally, older individuals may also find it easier to let go of restrictive cultural or religious norms around sex or their bodies, allowing more freedom in sexual exploration.

How Sex Changes For Women After 70

bar graph depicting that the most common sexual problems among women aged 57 to 85 includes low desire (43%), reduced vaginal lubrication (39%) and inability to orgasm (34%)
  • Vaginal dryness, post-menopause symptoms, and dyspareunia (painful intercourse) are some of the issues elderly women face which can impact their sexual satisfaction. [2]
  • Diminished sexual desire, trouble achieving orgasm, and vaginal dryness were the most commonly reported causes of sexual dysfunction in older women. [5]
  • Further research backs this up, as a study of over 1,550 women 57 to 85 years of age found that the most common sexual problems for elderly women were low desire (43%), reduction in vaginal lubrication (39%), and anorgasmia (inability to orgasm) (34%). [11]
  • Vaginal moisturizers, lubricants, topical estrogen, and MonaLisa Touch laser therapy could help improve these symptoms for elderly people and thus could improve their sex lives. [2]
  • Companionship, intimacy, emotional bonding, and caring are typically more important sexual experiences for women than intercourse. [8]
  • Over 40% of elderly women aged 65 to 80 said that sex is important to them. [1]

We spoke with Dr. Heather Jeffcoat, a pelvic floor therapist and member of our medical review board.

“The most common issues I see [in female patients] after the age of 70 is lack of or difficulty with arousal and painful intercourse,” she explained.

“Vaginal dryness and tissue thinning in the genitalia due to loss of estrogen during menopause are the primary contributors,” she said.

Dr. Jeffcoat said that the first thing she recommends for women over the age of 70 who are struggling with vaginal dryness or post-menopausal symptoms of dyspareunia (painful intercourse) is the right vaginal lube.

How Sex Changes For Men After 70

donut chart depicting that 37 to 42% of elderly men struggle with erectile difficulties
  • Erectile dysfunction and hypogonadism (testosterone deficiency) issues are often present in men who are senior citizens. [2]
  • Early ejaculation and trouble getting an erection are common reasons for diminished sexual function for elderly men. [5]
  • Traditional therapy for erectile dysfunction (including taking Viagra), therapeutic stem cell injection, hormone replacement therapy, and mindfulness practices have been shown to improve these issues for men, and have shown promise in improving their sex lives. [2, 14]
  • Approximately 37 – 42% of elderly men said they struggled with erectile difficulties, which can lead them to stop having sex altogether. [15] [11]
  • 70% of elderly men aged 65 to 80 maintained their sexual desire in their elder years and said that sex is important to them in life. [1]

While men do not go through menopause, they also experience physical and sexual changes with age for many reasons: medical conditions, a weakened pelvic floor, hormonal shifts, or a lack of physical activity are just a few.

Despite pop culture leading us to believe the elderly don’t care about sex, men not only enjoy the physical aspects but also the emotional and relational.

If a man is willing to explore the underlying causes of his sexual issues, he can improve at any age.

Frequency Of Sex After 70

donut chart depicting that 54% of those aged 75 to 85 report having sex at least two to three times per month
  • In a research study involving 3,005 American adults (1,550 women and 1,455 men) 57 to 85 years of age, 54% of the respondents aged 75 to 85 years old reported having sex at least two to three times per month. [11]
  • 23% of 75 to 85-year-olds reported having sex once a week or more. [11]
  • A 2013 research study of 1,502 married older people discovered that 90% of married older couples (aged 57 to 85) in the United States reported having regular sexual foreplay. [9]
  • When it comes to oral sex after 70, fewer than 10% said they had oral sex in the past year. [9]
  • Research has found a high correlation between the frequency of sexual intercourse and being married to a living partner. [10]
  • According to a national poll, 65% of respondents in their elder years aged 65 to 80 are still interested in sex, and 40% said they were currently sexually active. [1]

Sexual frequency may tend to slow down with age, but quantity is not always better than quality!

Whether partners are newly dating or have been married for decades, sex is an important way to deepen a couple’s connection.

Even if that sex may not look the same as it did at age 20 or 30, sex in one’s 70s can be equally satisfying.

Health And Sex After 70

graphic depicting that sexual problems after the age of 70 can arise from a variety of medical conditions including diabetes, infection, urogenital tract conditions, cardiovascular problems, and cancer
  • Sexual problems after age 70 may be a symptom of or consequence of an underlying health condition such as diabetes, an infection, urogenital tract conditions, cardiovascular problems, or cancer. [11]
  • Decreased sexual activity or complete cessation of sexual activity is associated with the development of erectile dysfunction or when a partner struggles with medical issues. [16]
  • Elderly patients taking medication for various health conditions may find that side effects from that medication impact their libido and their sex lives. [11]

Health in the US tends to be quite poor, which is a big contributor to sexual problems, particularly with age.

Erections and vaginal lubrication require good circulation with proper levels of hormones and nitric oxide, all of which can be compromised with medical concerns.

While many individuals cease sexual activity at this stage, those who can keep the physical intimacy alive in their relationship — in whatever form possible — tend to have happier and more fulfilling relationships.

STIs Among Those 70 And Older

graphic depicting that older people are not only at greater risk of exposure to stis but are also physiologically more vulnerable to them
  • According to statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2019, the number of cases of chlamydia rose by 86% among Americans aged 55 and older between 2014 and 2018. Cases of syphilis rose 120% in these 4 years among this older age group, and the rates of gonorrhea rose 164%. [13]
  • Older people are not only now at greater risk of exposure to STIs, but they are also physiologically more vulnerable to them. [3]
  • For example, as people get older, their immune function naturally declines, and this increases their vulnerability to HIV infection and other STIs. [3]
  • Furthermore, postmenopausal changes to the lining of the vagina in older women cause a thinning of vaginal tissues, which can reduce their protection against infection and increase their risk of getting an STD. [3]
  • Since pregnancy is not a concern for senior citizens, condom usage rates may be lower for this reason, increasing their risk for STDs. [12]
  • Many older adults may not have received the same safe sex education in school that younger generations had. [13]
  • A 2020 research study polled sexually active elderly people aged 65 and older, many of whom were in nursing homes. The elderly participants of this study exhibited low levels of STI knowledge. [14]
  • Overall, there is a reduced emphasis on safe sex behaviors for those over age 65, and reduced sexual education at this age, which may be why they often fail to practice safe sex with proper protection. [14]

STIs are a risk no matter one’s age, but unfortunately, most older individuals never had any formal sex education.

Those who start dating again after losing a spouse who they were married to for decades, for example, may not recognize the importance of condoms.

While there should be no stigma attached to receiving an STI diagnosis, avoiding STIs is prudent for any age.

Sources