It’s a question that has baffled younger generations for decades: ‘Do older people have sex?’
Despite the fact millions of couples enjoy happy (and intimate) relationships right into their eighties and older, there’s a distinct lack of communication about sex lives even existing past middle-age. In fact, there’s a bizarre stereotype of older people being ‘asexual’.
Now, research from Swinburne University of Technology has finally challenged the myth by focusing on over-45s’ sex lives and their thoughts on both sexuality and intimacy.
The ‘Over 45’s Adult Sexuality and Intimacy Study’ (The OASIS) found that mid and later-life Australians are enjoying sexuality still, but rather than craving frequent physically sexual encounters, they’re more interested in quality connections and intimacy – proving there’s no need to have regular intercourse to be ‘sexually active’.
It directly contradicts the ‘asexual older person’ stereotype and highlights the importance of intimacy at every age. Researchers now hope the results will help health professionals target older peoples’ needs more efficiently – with many perhaps requiring relationship counselling rather than drugs such as Viagra.
PhD candidate and lead researcher Ashley Macleod explained in the study, seen by Starts at 60: “[The results] challenge the existing stereotype of the ‘asexual older person’ and the idea that intercourse is necessary to be considered sexually active.”
She went on: “Culturally, there is a common attitude that older people are not (and should not be) sexually active. In research, the data shows that the frequency of sexual activity (i.e. sexual intercourse) decreases as people get older.
“What our research shows is that older adults not only still think of themselves as sexual beings, they also still engage in many activities that are sexual in nature, even if these activities are not as frequent as they may have been in the past.
“For some people, this may mean that their definition of what a sexual activity is may have broadened to allow for the presence of sexual dysfunction or even a physical impediment (e.g. hip pain); and for others it may mean that intercourse is less frequent than before, but is more pleasurable because of things like mutual trust and respect with their partner, or having a greater confidence to be able to communicate their desires with a partner.”
The team started the study because, so far, there’s little research looking at sexuality for the middle-aged and older age demographics. In fact, most studies at the moment focus on sexuality among young people and on reproduction, fertility and sexual dysfunction – topics that aren’t necessarily applicable for older demographics.
“At the moment the types of tools that researchers and health professionals can use to better understand and measure sexuality in midlife and beyond are either very narrow in scope, or actually designed to be used for younger populations, so it’s important that they have the ‘right tools for the right job’,” she said in the study.
Ultimately, she said their goal is to develop a new sexuality measurement scale for adults in mid and later life to help health professionals target their care.
Macleod added: “This work is currently underway and The OASIS team are seeking willing participants to take part in an anonymous survey. To participate, please go to swi.nu/oasis.”
See more on the OASIS study on their official Facebook page here.