Is sex less important as we get older?

The Beatles may have sang that ‘love is all you need’, but plenty of people would say that there’s another, related part of life that’s also pretty important: Sex.

The way most peoples’ feelings change about sex in our early and middle life are well-documented and, it seems, largely agreed upon – we’re keenly interested in our youth, then just too damn tired in our parenting years.

But the way people view sex in later life seems to take two very different forms – some, unbound from the shackles of childcare and work, have a renewed interest and reckon it keeps them feeling young and vital, while others have had enough of sex, and the time spent on relationships that go with it, and would rather curl up with a good book and a cup of tea.

Those in the ‘pro’ camp say that regular sex with a loving partner helps us express our feelings, reduces stress, improves our mood and even make us healthier. Sex is known to increase the body’s levels of oxytocin, which can decrease blood pressure, and endorphins, which act as natural painkillers. And for men, regular ejaculation may lower the risk of prostate cancer.

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These are the big questions where you can have your say.  We’ll be addressing one each day. This is an open space for discussion about some very confronting debates in out society. How do you feel? What do you think? 

Dame Judi Dench makes no secret of the fact that sex in her 80s is great, telling the Radio Times recently that she still felt “desire” as strongly as ever. (That may be helped by the fact that she has a relatively new lover of just seven years – whether such a feeling is possible to maintain after a 50-year marriage is a whole ‘nother conversation!)

But those who’re ‘anti’ sex – more women than men tend to fall into this camp – often reckon that they’re happy to be free of the pressure to look or act ‘sexy’ or to pander to another person’s whims, and that they get just as much stimulation from friends and hobbies as a roll in the hay.

As one of Starts at 60‘s readers wrote, anonymously, recently, “I don’t miss sex at all. I can think of a million things I would rather do, such as having a boil lanced or eating excessive amounts of chocolate”.

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Of course, a person’s physical and mental health also has an impact on whether sex has a part to play in our lives – the mind may well be willing but the body unable, or vice versa. 

Many medications either dampen libido and prevent erections, while the hormonal changes caused by menopause, and the accompanying vaginal dryness that goes with it, can make women less keen on a romp than they may’ve been previously.  

Throw in the loss of a partner, meanwhile, and for some, it may not so much be a matter of not wanting sex, as it not being easy to obtain. 

What’s your thoughts in this very personal issue? Does sex in your 60s (and afterwards) help keep relationships alive and your interest in life more generally keen? Or is it something that naturally becomes less of a focus in later life?