According to a survey by Saga (an online social community for the over-50s), 65% of over-50s are sexually active, with 46% claiming to have sex once a week. And 85% said that sex is less pressurised than when they were younger, proving that sex can feel better with age.
And that’s not the only good news. Many postmenopausal women have quicker arousal, possibly linked to the reduced fear of pregnancy, according to The Sexual Dysfunction Association.
Sexual desires and activity aren’t static. They change throughout life for lots of reasons such as having children, coming to terms with sexual orientation, or physical or mental illness. Growing older can affect sex too, but it’s important to realise is that this is completely normal.
“Enjoying sex as we get older means recognising how the ageing process can affect the body and working around that,” says Denise Knowles, psychosexual therapist at relationship chairty Relate. “It’s also about attitude. A lot of older people can be reluctant to talk about sex with each other because it’s something they just didn’t do when they were younger. But if you can talk about it, and accept your needs are changing and adapt to that, you can still have a fulfilling relationship.”
Starting a new relationship later in life can be daunting but also exciting.
Many people who have lost a long-term partner feel guilty about getting close to someone else and starting a sexual relationship. This can affect their ability to have sex. Talking about these feelings with the new partner, a therapist, or both, can help address this.
Rising divorce rates mean that more people are single and dating, and not falling into the stereotype of ‘old people’. “I see social change,” says Denise. “Nowadays, women in their 50s, 60s and 70s are not thinking of themselves as old. They are glamorous, vibrant and they feel good about their bodies.”
A sexually active woman who wants to avoid pregnancy needs to use contraception until the menopause, (that is, until she has not had a period or bleeding for two years if under 50, and for one year if she is over 50).
All age groups can get, and pass on, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including herpes, chlamydia and HIV. Condoms help protect against STIs, so talk to you new partner about using them. If you would like help and advice on using or talking about condoms, contact the fpa helpline (formerly the Family Planning Association) on 0845 122 8690.