Staying Sexy After 60: Starting a Sexual Revolution 

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Adapted from an article of the same name, AARP The Magazine, March 2023 

By Michele D. Baker 

A 2018 National Poll on Healthy Aging sponsored by AARP and the University of Michigan found that among men and women ages 65 to 80, only 40% were still having sex. Even among those who were in relationships, the rate was only 54%. 

Gynecologist Margery Kates, MD calls the sex drought an epidemic among folks 50 and older, but no one’s talking about it. “It’s a real problem,” Kates notes. “There’s a lot of academic literature…now, but that awareness hasn’t translated to patients.” 

One of the biggest contributors to the sex drought is a failure to communicate. Many of us don’t have the words to express even the simplest concepts and concerns around sex – not to our partners, and not to our physicians. “Sexual health is one of the most challenging things for us to discuss,” says Wendy Strgar, founder of Good Clean Love, a sexual wellness products company. “So it becomes an avoidance issue.” 

Related: 3 Fun Ways to Keep the Romance Alive On Valentine’s Day

Many older couples aren’t having sex because of biological conditions associated with aging that could be easily treated: erectile difficulty, vaginal dryness, testosterone deficiency, low libido. And once sex becomes even a little challenging, psychological issues can take over.  

For most women, menopause begins about age 51, and vaginal dryness, painful sex, and low libido become issues, which can lead to a “desire discrepancy” between partners. Fortunately, hormones and topical creams (among many other options) provide relief. 

Dr. Irwin Goldstein, director of San Diego Sexual Medicine, says that for men, “ED can be devastating… your ego, value as a male, and self-esteem shatter.” Fear of discussing sex can be a barrier in asking for help. “Many men are reluctant to consult a urologist,” Goldstein says. Yet there’s a whole array of treatments available: hormones, pills, injectables, vacuum devices, and shock wave therapy, among them. “There are very few [men] who cannot be treated,” finishes Goldstein. 

It’s worth a little embarrassment to get results, though: Sex is good for you. Among other documented health benefits, it improves sleep, clears the mind, releases natural painkillers, and creates a sense of well-being. Sex provides benefits from a relationship perspective, too. “Sex is a magic sauce for couples,” says Dr. Abraham Morgenthaler, director of Men’s Health Boston. “It’s something that is not only incredibly intimate, but it actually involves a primitive part of our brains that creates a sense of partnership, exclusivity and intimacy. Once that disappears from a relationship, a lot is lost.” 

The takeaway? Take steps to keep your sex life “alive and kicking.” Consult your doctor and local sexual health educator, and when problems arise, speak up.