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How Your Sex Life Changes After 60

Original Post Very Well Health By Marian Anne Eure Updated on October 24, 2023 Medically reviewed by Jenny Sweigard, MD


The frequency of sex after 60 is different than it is for people in other stages of life, but that does not mean that older adults do not want sex or don't enjoy it. There can be adjustments that people over 60 need to make to have a fulfilling sex life, but that’s also true of many lifestyle changes that benefit overall quality of life as you age.

This article takes a closer look at how common it is to have sex after age 60, as well as the health benefits of sex as you age. It also offers tips on how to keep your sex life active and enjoyable as you get older.


The research papers discussed in this article apply "male/men" and "female/women" to sexuality, but it's important to remember that not all people with a penis identify as male and not all people with a vagina identify as female.


Are Older People Having Sex?

According to the National Poll on Healthy Aging, 40% of people between the ages of 65 and 80 are sexually active. Of these folks, 73% say they are satisfied with their sex lives. Among the people with spouses or partners, 54% said they were sexually active.1

Advances in medicine are helping people live longer, healthier lives. Problems that used to limit sexual activity in older adults, such as erectile dysfunction and low libido (sex drive), can now be treated with medication or counseling and lifestyle changes.


Frequency of Sex in Older Adults

As people age, they tend to have sex less often for a variety of reasons, including age-related hormonal changes, chronic illnesses, a change in priorities, and other factors.2

That said, it doesn’t mean that older adults always stop having sex altogether. A national poll in 2018 found that:3


  • Forty percent of people aged 65 to 80 were sexually active.

  • About two-thirds of adults in that age group were still interested in sex.

  • Half of older adults said sex was important for their overall quality of life.

  • About 73% of the older adults who were having sex said they were satisfied with their sex lives.


A similar 2019 study found that older adults who were sexually active reported a higher quality of life and sense of well-being.4


It’s not just intercourse, either: A 2018 study of older adults found that about 60% said they took part in more “subtle” kinds of sexual closeness and intimacy, and that quality was more important than the frequency of sex.5


Being close and physically tender with another person can have health benefits for everyone, but it could be especially important for older adults because they are vulnerable to isolation and loneliness.6


Having a partner can certainly help provide companionship, but it doesn't necessarily lead to more sex.


A 2017 study showed that about half of men over the age of 65 with partners had been sexually active in the last six months, while the rate was only 40% for women with partners. Men without partners were more likely to have had sex in the last six months than women (13% to 1%, respectively).7


Older adults who are not satisfied with their sex lives often say that health conditions, loss of desire, pain, fatigue, and concerns about how they look are some of the reasons why they're not having sex as often as they would like to.8


Health Benefits of Sex After 60

Research continues to show there are benefits to having sex throughout life. Here are just a few examples:

  • Increased happiness: A 2019 study found that sexual satisfaction in males was linked to a greater life enjoyment score. For females, the emotional intimacy of sex was linked to higher lifestyle enjoyment scores.9

  • Improved health: A 2019 study found that a higher frequency of sex in older adults was linked to lower rates of cancer, coronary heart disease, and other chronic illnesses. While the study does not suggest that having more sex will prevent disease, it did show an association between sexual activity and health in older people.10

  • Better brain function: A 2019 study found a direct link between higher sex frequency and higher levels of cognitive function in older adults. Cognitive function includes memory, flexible thinking, self-control, verbal fluency, and visual-spatial processing (the ability to tell where objects are in space).11


Sex and Intimacy in Older Adults

Intimacy does not become less important when you hit 60, but it does naturally change as you get older.12 Older adults often place a higher priority on intimacy, bonding, and affection than on sex itself. They also tend to regard partnered sex as more intimate than sex with multiple or occasional partners.13


Intimacy without sex does not necessarily lead to the same levels of satisfaction. According to a 2020 study of about 3,800 older adults, the frequency of sexual intercourse paired with intimacy corresponded to their feelings of sexual well-being. The absence of either intimacy or intercourse tended to reduce feelings of well-being for both males and females.14


Being upset about changes in sexual function as you get older is normal, but it can put a strain on your relationship. It's important that you don't avoid or ignore these feelings. Talk with your partner openly and honestly about how you're feeling. You can work together to find a solution, and doing so can even bring you closer.


You should also reach out to a professional if sexual dysfunction is causing you anxiety. It's also not uncommon for people experiencing sexual dysfunction (particularly ED) to have symptoms of depression.15


Being single and not having sex is also fine, as long as it makes you happy. Not having sex does not mean that you are at greater risk of poor health. What matters is that you’re taking care of your physical and mental well-being.


Revitalizing Your Sex Life

There are several things you can do to keep your sex life alive as you get older. In general, taking care of your health is the first and perhaps most important step. If you are not physically and emotionally well, it will be harder to have a healthy sex life.


Diet and Exercise

Eating nutritious food and exercising help give you energy and can improve your sense of well-being in all aspects of your life, including your sex life.


Having obesity or being overweight can affect sexual function, even in young people. However, the effect tends to be greater in older adults because they have higher rates of heart disease, respiratory disease, and other aging-related illnesses.16


Achieving and maintaining a weight that supports your health can improve sexual function, no matter how old you are.16


For example, a 2020 study found that a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and fish—and low in red and processed meats—was associated with a lower risk of erectile dysfunction.17

Regular exercise is linked to better sexual function during and after menopause. Specific activities, like pelvic floor exercises, may have a greater and more direct effect on sexual function in older females.


Treating Medical Conditions

Older couples are commonly faced with challenges in life that directly impact sexual function, like erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, pain with sex, and reduced libido. That said, all of these conditions can be addressed.


  • Erectile dysfunction: ED treatment includes medications called PDE5 inhibitors (Viagra and Cialis (tadalafil)), penile vacuum pumpserection rings, and penile implants.18

  • Vaginal dryness and pain: Vaginal dryness and pain can be treated with topical estrogen cream, vaginal estrogen suppositories, vaginal estrogen rings, non-hormonal vaginal lubricants, and a drug called Osphena (ospemifene) that makes the vaginal tissues thicker and less fragile.19

  • Low libido: Low libido can be treated with testosterone replacement therapy, counseling, and changes in medications that could be causing or contributing to a reduced sex drive.


Talk to your primary care provider about your symptoms and what treatment is available. You can also ask for a referral to see a specialist called a urologist (an expert in the urinary tract and male reproductive system) or a gynecologist (an expert in the female reproductive system).


Summary

While the frequency of sex over 60 might not be what it was when you were younger, you can certainly have a satisfying sex life as you get older. The benefits of having sex as you age range from boosting brain power to improving your overall sense of well-being.

Keep in mind that sex—and how you feel about it—may change as you get older. If you're struggling with the changes and are not happy with your sex life, it's important to speak up. Your partner, as well as a healthcare provider or therapist, can support you and help you find a way to make sex safe and satisfying.


Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.


  1. National Poll on Healthy Aging. Let's talk about sex.

  2. International Society for Sexual Medicine. What is the "normal" frequency of sex?.

  3. Smith L, Yang L, Veronese N, Soysal P, Stubbs B, Jackson SE. Sexual activity is associated with greater enjoyment of life in older adultsSex Med. 2019;7(1):11-18. doi:10.1016/j.esxm.2018.11.001

  4. Skałacka K, Gerymski R. Sexual activity and life satisfaction in older adultsPsychogeriatrics. 2019;19(3):195-201. doi:10.1111/psyg.12381

  5. Ramesh A, Issac TG, Mukku SSR, Sivakumar PT. Companionship and sexual issues in the aging populationIndian J Psychol Med. 2021;43(5 Suppl):S71-S77. doi:10.1177/02537176211045622

  6. Freak-Poli R, Kirkman M, De Castro Lima G, Direk N, Franco OH, Tiemeier H. Sexual activity and physical tenderness in older adults: Cross-sectional prevalence and associated characteristicsJ Sex Med. 2017;14(7):918-927. doi:10.1016/j.jsxm.2017.05.010

  7. Thomas HN, Hamm M, Hess R, Borrero S, Thurston RC. "I want to feel like I used to feel": a qualitative study of causes of low libido in postmenopausal womenMenopause. 2020;27(3):289-294. doi:10.1097/GME.0000000000001455

  8. Erens B, Mitchell KR, Gibson L, et al. Health status, sexual activity and satisfaction among older people in Britain: a mixed methods study. PLoS One. 2019;14(3):e0213835. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0213835

  9. Jackson S, Yang L, Koyanagi A, Stubbs B, Veronese N, Smith L. Declines in sexual activity and function predict incident health problems in older adults: prospective findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Arch Sex Behavior. 2019;49:929-40. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-352

  10. Wright H, Jenks RA, Demeyere N. Frequent sexual activity predicts specific cognitive abilities in older adults. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2019;74(1):47-51. doi:10.1093/ageing/afv197

  11. Ricoy-Cano AJ, Obrero-Gaitán E, Caravaca-Sánchez F, Fuente-Robles YM. Factors conditioning sexual behavior in older adults: A systematic review of qualitative studiesJ Clin Med. 2020;9(6):1716. Published 2020 Jun 3. doi:10.3390/jcm9061716

  12. Štulhofer A,  Jurin T, Graham C, Janssen E, Træen B. Emotional intimacy and sexual well-being in aging European couples: a cross-cultural mediation analysis. Eur J Ageing. 2020;17(1):43–54. doi:10.1007/s10433-019-00509-x

  13. Di Benedetto P. Physical activity and sexual function in older people. In: Rehabilitation Medicine for Elderly Patients. Springer Publishing; 2018.

  14. Bauer S, Breyer BN, Stampfer MJ, Rimm EB, Giovanucci EL, Kenfield SA. Association of diet with erectile dysfunction among men in the health professionals follow-up study. JAMA Netw Open. 2020 Nov;3(11):e2021701. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.21701

  15. Krzastek SC, Bopp J, Smith RP, Kovac JR. Recent advances in the understanding and management of erectile dysfunctionF1000Res. 2019;8:F1000 Faculty Rev-102. doi:10.12688/f1000research.16576.1

  16. Naumova I, Castelo-Branco C. Current treatment options for postmenopausal vaginal atrophyInt J Womens Health. 2018;10:387–95. doi:10.2147/IJWH.S158913


By Marian Anne Eure Marian Eure, RN, is a registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in adult health care, health promotion, and health education.

 
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