Changes in sexual desire and behavior throughout the life cycle are normal. This is especially true as you enter your later years. Once it was thought that older people didn’t have sex, but we now acknowledge that people are — and encourage them to remain—sexually active (if they want to) throughout their lives.

What We Know

Intimacy and connection with yourself and/or a partner are just as important in later life as they are earlier. Although scientific research on the frequency and types of sexual activity among older people is lacking, there has been some progress recently. For example, we now know that the most important predictor of sexual interest and activity in a person’s later years are the importance and frequency of sexual activity in earlier life: If sex is central to a person’s happiness at age 30, it probably still will be at age 55.

When sexual activity decreases or ceases for men, the most common causes are lack of desire (usually resulting from medications), ill health, and erectile difficulties. Women most often report intercourse ceases because of a lack of desire (usually resulting from medications), loss of a partner, or a partner’s wishes.

Although studies show continued interest in sexual activity, research is consistent in showing a decrease in penis-vagina intercourse as people age. In addition, some illnesses and disabilities require that couples try different positions for intercourse, which may be off-putting to some. Finally, research tells us that over the years “attachment” to a partner becomes more important than “attraction,” and satisfaction is measured more in terms of affection, security, and commitment than sexual fulfillment. 

Good Sex after 50

Keeping Sexually Fit

There is a common phrase among sexual health practitioners: “Use it or lose it.” Men who have frequent penile stimulation have an easier time getting and maintaining erections. Women who have frequent genital and clitoral stimulation have better self-lubrication. You should view self-pleasuring (masturbation) as a natural supplementary activity within a relationship. It’s another opportunity to use it, so to speak, to help your sex life stay robust.

Outercourse and Disregarding the Goal-Oriented Approach

A good sex life at any age involves a lot more than just sex. It’s also about intimacy and touch, things anyone can benefit from. Even if you are ill or have physical disabilities, you can engage in intimate acts and benefit from closeness with another person. Take the pressure off by putting aside your old ideas of sex being focused on penetration and orgasm. As humans age and become less focused on their genitals, they are more likely to discover the sensuousness of their entire bodies.

Outercourse is a term used for the great variety of erotic experiences that do not include intercourse or penetrative sex. Outercourse validates pleasure and connectedness as ends in themselves without focusing on the single goal of intercourse. Take your time, relax, and enjoy the experience of sensual touching.

Overcoming Sexual Problems by Improving Communication

 As bodies and feelings change as you get older, it becomes more important than ever to communicate your thoughts, fears, and desires to your partner. People tend to assume their partners know what they like in the bedroom. Often, people give no feedback on their experience in order to please a partner. So partners think whatever they are doing is right and keep doing it. Use humor, be honest, and be open to new ideas to improve sexual communication. Get more tips on how to talk to your partner about sex

Safe Sex for Older Adults

The risk of AIDS is increasing at twice the rate in people over 50 as compared to people under 50. People over 50 constitute 11 percent of new AIDS cases. In addition, not only are many physicians reluctant to talk about sex with older people, but also it may be harder to recognize sexually transmitted infections and their symptoms, especially HIV. Such symptoms can be similar to other illnesses that commonly affect older adults: feeling tired or confused, loss of appetite, and swollen glands, for example. People who are sexually active should familiarize themselves with sexually transmitted infections and how to avoid them as well as the correct way to use and store condoms.

If sexually transmitted infections do become a problem, remember to expand your definition of sex to include activities in which there is no exchange of bodily fluids; people get enormous sexual gratification from self-pleasuring (masturbation), sharing of sexual fantasies, cuddling, kissing, reading erotica, petting, and caressing.