Jocalyn P Clark, MSc
The National Council on the Aging in Washington, D.C. recently released the findings of its landmark study entitled Healthy Sexuality and Vital Aging.1 This unprecedented look at older people's sexuality will surely debunk many long-held views about the sexual lives of elderly North Americans. For one, older people appear to be both having sex and enjoying it. Over half of the older people in this study were found to have engaged in sexual activity within the last month, and 40% reported wanting sex more frequently. Only 4% wanted sex less often. Among those who were sexually active, over three-quarters said that maintaining an active sex life is an important aspect of their relationship with their partners. In addition, more than 70% said they were as satisfied or more sexually satisfied than they were in their 40s.
The findings of The National Council's study provide valuable insight into the sexuality and sexual needs of older women.
"Healthy sexuality among older women should serve as a benchmark of general health, and assessments of sexual wellness in clinical examination by the practitioner may help diagnose barriers to sexuality."
Lilia Malkin, BSc
Although many men consider a decline in sexual desire and sexual function a part of the "normal" aging process, this common misconception is being replaced by the increasingly positive outlook on sexuality that is becoming more prevalent among the geriatric population. A large proportion of older men regularly engage in sexual activity and many are addressing physical and emotional barriers, as well as some prevalent myths about sexuality.
A recent study conducted by The National Council On the Aging (NCOA) surveyed 1,300 older Americans and found that 61 percent of American males aged 60 and over are sexually active. The percentage of men who enjoy an active sex life does decline with increasing age; while 71 percent report being sexually active in their sixties, only 27 percent remain so in the 80 and over age group. However, lack of a steady partner presents one of the major barriers to continued sexual activity in the elderly, since 50 percent of men over 80 years of age who do have a partner engage in sex. Furthermore, while 39 percent of American men aged 60 and over stated that they were satisfied with how often they participated in sexual activity, the same percentage of respondents wished to increase the frequency of occasions in which they have sex.
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