Sexual Activity Continues into Old Age for Many

Article excerpt

SEATTLE -- Sex remains an important part of life for seniors, with almost one-third of persons between the ages of 65 and 74 years continuing to have sex at least once a week, according to a survey of sexual behavior in seniors.

"We hope that population-representative data on sexual activity will help older people view their sexual experience relative to that of others and that these data also will provide physicians with a reference," said Dr. Stacy Lindau of the geriatric section of the department of medicine at the University of Chicago.

The survey of 3,005 older individuals found that 73% of those interviewed had a spouse or a significant, intimate other, and that of those, 73% were sexually active, which was defined as having had at least one sex partner in the previous 12 months.

Only one-quarter of the respondents said sex was not important to them at all.

Very few of the respondents reported more than one partner in the previous 12 months, and almost all of the sexual encounters were heterosexual, she said.

The subjects of the survey were chosen to be demographically representative of the population as a whole. They were divided equally between men and women, with roughly 1,000 subjects in each of three age groups, 57-64 years, 65-74 years, and 75-85 years. The 120-minute survey was conducted in person.

Among 57- to 64-year-olds, 40% of the men and 34% of the women reported that they had sex once a week or more, and 33% of men and 37% of women reported having sex less than once a month.

Among the 65- to 74-year-olds, 31% of both men and women said that they had sex once a week or more and 35% of both men and women said they had sex less than once a month.

In the oldest group, 75- to 85-year-olds, 23% of men and 24% of women reported having sex once a week or more, and 47% of men and 46% of women reported having sex less than once a month. Overall, the percentage of this group who reported having sex once a week or more is similar to the percentage reported in a survey of participants aged 18-59 years, Dr. Lindau noted.

However, sexual problems among the respondents were common. Among those who reported being sexually active, 62% of the men and 70% of the women reported one or more sexual problems in the previous year. …