There’s no denying that sex is something that changes as people get older, but is it normal for a partner to completely lose interest in sex as they get older?
That’s the question an anonymous man recently asked as part of a letter to the editor to The Guardian’s psychotherapist Pamela Stephenson. The man, 50, explained that he and his 48-year-old female partner had a healthy sex life until about a year ago when she started to experience menopausal symptoms. The man acknowledged his partner noticed a lot of problems associated with the change of life and that her sex drive had decreased dramatically as a result of it. .
Keen to overcome the problem, the woman started taking Chinese herbal medicine. While she’s seen an improvement in other symptoms, she still has no interest in sex.
“I have asked her many times to go to a doctor to discuss this,” the man wrote. “The problem is that she thinks the current situation is completely normal – that it is natural that people lose appetite for sex when they reach our age.”
To make matters worse, the man explained his partner doesn’t understand why he still wants to have sex and even suggested he needs to speak to a counsellor because of his desire to get intimate.
Sadly, the man admitted it has caused problems in the relationship. He feels rejected and wasn’t sure what to do.
Stephenson explained that while hormone boosting can restore sex drive, the man needed to respect his partner’s choice not to use them. Still, she acknowledged that the man’s feelings were also important and encouraged him to talk to his partner about them, while showing sympathy for what she was going through.
Women can and do go through a series of physiological changes before, during and after menopause, that can impact the kind of sex they want. The vaginal tissue can also thin, meaning more lubrication is required when it comes to sexual activity. Still, it is possible for women to experience orgasms in older age, with some couples opting for other versions of intimacy, rather than sexual penetration.
For men, problems with erections can limit how regularly they have intercourse, but medication including Viagra, Cialis and Levitra can help men overcome these problems. Denton Callander, Senior Research Fellow of the Sexual Health Program at UNSW Sydney’s Kirby Institute, recently told Starts at 60 that it’s not uncommon for couples to disagree on the amount of sex they have, but stressed the importance of talking openly about sexual wants and needs with a partner.
“There is no ‘should’ when it comes to sex, except maybe to say that people should have as much or as little sex as they want,” Callander said. “Regarding frequency, some couples may find that they disagree about how often they should be having sex, which is not uncommon.”
Meanwhile, recent research from dating website Ashley Madison found that sex is still very much something that interests older members of the population, with 90 per cent of people over the age of 60 surveyed admitting they were looking for physical and sexual intimacy above everything else. Just 27 per cent of people wanted emotional intimacy, while 32 per cent of people said they were looking for companionship.
Another study conducted by the University of Michigan found 40 per cent of people aged between 65 and 80 were still sexually active. Within this age group, 75 per cent have a romantic partner and 54 per cent of these people are sexual active. And, whether or not they have an active sex life, close to two-thirds of older people said they were interested in sex, while more than 50 per cent said sex was important to their quality of life.