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The Scoop on Seniors and Sex

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Sex. Your parents may not have wanted to talk with you about this topic as a teenager, and you likely are equally as uncomfortable discussing the topic with an aging loved one. But intimacy is an important part of life at any age.

Recent trends in sexual activity among seniors indicate that the taboo topic of seniors and sex can no longer be ignored. Not only can sexuality assist in combatting loneliness and depression as we age, but statistics show that most seniors are more sexually active than their families and care communities realize.

Plus, there appears to be some benefits of having a healthy sex life.  A study published in the journal Sexual Medicine indicates that sexual activity is associated with improved well-being among older adults, as measured through higher enjoyment of life scores.

Led by Dr. Lee Smith from Anglia Ruskin University and Dr. Sarah Jackson from UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care in the United Kingdom, the study involved analyzing survey data from 6,879 older adults, with an average age of 65, living in England. It found that older men and women who reported any type of sexual activity in the previous 12 months had a higher life enjoyment score than those who were not sexually active.

So what are seniors saying—or not saying—about sex?

They Have It
A study by the New England Journal of Medicine reports that over 25 percent of seniors aged 75-85 are sexually active. The number rises above 50 percent for seniors ages 65-74. Whether or not senior sexual activity is being candidly discussed within families and health care settings, the statistics are clear: many seniors are having sex.

Parents Aren’t Talking; Children Aren’t Asking
Sex and dating are, quite literally, the last thing adult children want to talk about with their senior parents, according to results from a survey commissioned by Home Instead Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care® network. Fifty-six percent of senior parents said sex was the most difficult topic to discuss. Only a third of adult children reported that they were even the least bit comfortable with the topic. The combination of the percentage of seniors who are sexually active and the hesitation of most families to discuss this activity suggests a dangerous communication barrier when it comes to seniors and sex.

They May Not Be Aware Of The Risks
Perhaps most staggering is this statistic cited by CBS News: Sexually transmitted diseases have more than doubled over the past decade in the 50-90 demographic. The assumption that all seniors are aware of the commonly known risks associated with sexual activity is false. Senior baby boomers originally became sexually active at a time when facts about STDs and safe sex were not as readily available as they are today. Add this to existing challenges, such as lack of privacy in community living, and the question of seniors and sex becomes quite complex.

What Does This Mean for Families?
The realities of seniors and sex suggest that open and frank discussions with older adults about their needs for physical connection and emotional intimacy could be beneficial. This is no easy task, but there are helpful resources available. One free resource is the 40/70 Guide, A Guide to Conversation Starters for Boomers and Their Senior Loved Ones from Home Instead Senior Care. This guide provides discussion tips and strategies to start those difficult conversations. The 40/70 Rule® refers to the respective ages of adult children (40) and their senior parents (70) when they should begin to talk about various aging topics.

It’s also important to acknowledge the role that living situations play in protecting a senior’s privacy and independence. Aging in place resources may be key in retaining an environment where both physical and emotional needs of a senior can be met. Visit HomeInstead.com to learn more about how home care services can help seniors retain their independence.

Last revised: February 10, 2019

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. February 21, 2020 at 2:28 pm | Posted by Bobbie Serna

    I do not believe that sexual activity increases overall health; not at all!Quite the contrary , the ability to enjoy sexual activity is a sure sign of overall good health; not a cause of good health but a result of good health.I am 86, strong , healthy, and incredibly still very attractive. I would tremendously having regular sexual orgasms with a wonderful healthy christian husbasnd. At my age, it is difficult to find one. I choose to remain celibate rather than to offend God and or risk horrible deadly infection.I wish i could be married and enjoy sexual activity.I do not believe it would make me healthier at all. I woud just very much enjoy it.I pray for that. I am not at all concerned that I might be less healthy simply because such pleasures are not available to me.

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  2. February 18, 2019 at 1:57 pm | Posted by Betelihem Ergetie

    The realities of seniors and sex suggest that professionals in the elder care community need to begin an open and frank discussion with seniors and their families about seniors’ needs for physical connection and emotional intimacy.

    Reply

  3. July 16, 2015 at 12:12 pm | Posted by Helen Cambron

    Yes, as a Nurse Practitioner for a large multispecialty Neuroscience Clinic ( survery, oncology neurology and endocrinology) I think that one thing people forget is that senior adult sexual activity is a normal part of aging. Healthy adults should expect to be able to participate in sexual activity as long as physically capable. We don't routinely ask these questions when this subject should be as routine as bowel habits and diet. One area that is not focused on is post menopausal needs to continue to keep sexual organs functioning and capable of participation. You cannot go years without using the equipment and expect that it will still function the same and have the same capacity if it has been 10 years since you last had sex-- and you need to see your gynecologist/ Urologist/PCP who can help with this aspect of aging and treatment was well as maintenance which can include a physical, oral medications for both sexes, vaginal creams and dilators to restore physical capacity. Sexuality is a normal life experience and should be looked upon as something that promotes overall well being and health and is a basic human need. We need to get over archaic fears and embarrassment and realize that the good news is that our lives can be very fulfilled into our 90's and beyond.

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  4. December 19, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Posted by Eileen

    Didn't know if you might find this useful for January presentation.

    Reply

  5. December 19, 2013 at 9:03 am | Posted by GFHarris

    My private practice serves seniors, developmentally disabled adults, spinal cord injury & traumatic brain injury clients. Sex continues to span across all populations yet many caregivers & facilities are not well prepared to address in a positive way. This needs to change. Sex in the aging is alive & well. I have an 83yo client who still reads romance novels & recently purchased her 2nd vibrator....I was not aware she even had a vibrator. Her comment re romance novels, "Honey, if they're not getting laid by the 4th or 5th chapter, throw it out as it's not worth your time." Good to know, now if I only had time to read romance novels.....

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