Sometimes age doesn’t bring wisdom—ok, a lot of times age doesn’t bring wisdom—and a sad example can be found in the results of a sex survey recently given to Americans age 65 to 80. If you’re in this age group (or even if you’re younger), and if your sex life is not what you’d like it to be, something these seniors revealed about themselves could be a valuable lesson that would help you improve your sex life and happiness.

The survey, conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy, polled 1,002 men and women. It explored how these adults, selected to be broadly representative of Americans in their age group, feel about sex—and about seeking help for sexual problems. Nearly three- quarters of the respondents were in ongoing relationships with spouses or, if unmarried, nonspouse partners. In general, seniors gave the intimate act a thumbs up…

  • 65% expressed an interest in sex
  • 54% said that sex is important to their overall quality of life
  • 76% agreed that it is an important part of a relationship at any age.

Those numbers might surprise you if you think that interest in sex wanes when hair turns gray…it usually doesn’t. It isn’t surprising to learn that respondents who reported being in good health were more likely to be sexually active than those who described their health as fair or poor (45% vs. 22%)…or that men expressed much greater interest in having sex and placed a higher value on having it in their lives than women did.

No, the sad and somewhat surprising result from this survey was what these older adults said they would tell their romantic partners if they were suffering from a sexual health problem: nothing. In fact, only one-third of them said they would discuss a sexual problem at all with their partners.

And that may be one reason why, although 76% of respondents agreed that sex is an important part of a relationship at any age, only 40% of them were actually having sex. For many people, sex does become more difficult and in some cases, impossible as age brings related health problems—but there are solutions, both medical and otherwise. Why keep such an important topic out of your discussions with your life partner? More conversation, between partners as well as between seniors and their doctors, can help make it possible for those who want sex to have it and enjoy it more.

To learn more, see Bottom Line’s article “How Much Sex Makes Couples the Happiest?” and “What Really Happens During a Sex Therapy Appointment?

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