As couples age, physical and emotional challenges will play a role in the sexual aspect of their relationships. Specifically, how often they are having sex and their overall drive to engage in intimacy is related not only to physical health but mental well-being as well.
In the article, “Sex and the Mature Couple,” written by Linda Waite, Ph.D, of the University of Chicago, the results of her National Social Life, Health and Aging Project study are revealed. The study explores couples’ sex lives as they age (surveyed were men and women from age 57-85).
According to Waite, the main obstacles in maintaining a healthy sex life as men and women age are “illness, disease and declines in functioning that often appear with age.”
Age and Sexual Activity
The amount of sexual activity declines with each decade, naturally. For married and partnered men in the most optimal health, Waite’s research shows that most are not having sex by the time they are 85. For males in fair or poor health, the decline happens quicker, as about half are sexually active by the time they reach their 70s. For most married and partnered women, those in poor health saw a big decline in sexual activity by their late 60s. Half of women in excellent health were still having sex by their late 70s.
Consistency is the Key
Couples that remained sexually active into their eighties were just as satisfied with the intimate aspect of their relationships as those in their fifties. Only about half of the former interviewed reported having any sexual health issues. For men, erectile dysfunction was the main problem, while women suffer most commonly from a loss of interest.
Predictors of a Declining Sex Life – Mental Health
According to Waite, there are two main factors that can lead to a sexual decline for couples — poor mental health (depression, anxiety and stress) and dissatisfaction in the relationship.
If a couple is emotionally equipped to deal with normal physical challenges that arise with age, they can enjoy a healthy sex life. “Our research suggests that physical health challenges can be met if men and women maintain their mental health,” Waite explains. “For those who maintain sexual activity well into their golden years, the experiences are just as rewarding.”