As a means of allaying the general beliefs of what is conventional and what is unacceptable, Age UK has made public the part that sex and sexual health play in the lives of older people. Speaking candidly about their attitudes to sex and ageing in an Age UK online survey, many of the 2000+ participants aged over 65 years told of their wish to stay sexually active yet did not know where to go for advice on such matters.
The survey brings to light that sex is considered important to older people, with about one quarter of participants reporting that age had not affected their sex lives and two thirds (62%) revealing that they currently enjoyed a fulfilling sex life. Indeed, age has no boundaries to sexual relationships, with 18% of over 65-year-olds wanting to be more sexually active, 12% indicating that they would like to try new things with their partners, and 8% eager to start a new sexual relationship.
Regardless of wanting an active sex life, communication with partners and healthcare workers about such matters is an issue for older people. Over a quarter (28%) of the survey’s participants reported that they did not talk to their partner about sex, and women in particular found it difficult to reveal their emotions. This was partly due to embarrassment, and a sense of awkwardness around approaching the subject.
The survey also indicated that over 65-year-olds found difficultly in opening up to healthcare workers, with over two thirds (69%) never pursuing advice on sexual health. Moreover, three quarters (76%) of older people do not currently look for sexual health advice and only 14% have looked for such advice in the last 20 years. This is a concern when faced with the increasing number of sexually transmitted infections among people aged over 45 years. Such lack of communication may indeed impact on sexual well-being, considering that about half (46%) of over 65-year-olds (increasing to 54% of women in this age group) believe that they don’t require advice on sexual health. Despite this, when advice was needed, 17% of participants approached a nurse or doctor for information.
Age UK provides older people, along with their family, friends and carers, information and advice about talking about sex and safely remaining sexually active. Calls to Age UK Advice are free on 0800 169 65 65.