The Pleasure Principle: Sexual wellbeing as you get older

Results from the latest National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, among the largest and most detailed scientific studies of sexual behaviour in the world, show that Brits in their 50s, 60s and beyond still have active sex lives.

In fact, 75% of men and 59% of women aged 55 – 64, and 57% of men and 37% of women aged 65 – 74, reported having sex with someone of the opposite sex in the last year.

Yet there is still a myth that older people no longer have sex, or it is talked about with a degree of embarrassment or squeamishness, which means their sexual health needs, and especially conversations around pleasure and wellbeing, can be overlooked. This can particularly be the case for people with different sexual orientations or gender identities, who have grown up in a time when less support was available.

Whether you are 18 or 81, sex can have a positive effect on your overall health and wellbeing.

Some benefits of sex are that it:

  • releases chemicals that help you feel happy
  • keeps your juices flowing
  • strengthens the immune system
  • can relieve physical and emotional stress
  • aids relaxation and sleep
  • can relieve pain
  • is good for the heart
  • keeps the prostate gland and genitals healthy.

Of course as you get older, sex may not have the appeal it once did. You may engage in less sexual activity for many reasons, including illness, the loss of a partner or less interest sexually in a partner.

And there is no right or wrong level of sexual activity at any age, but as you get older, you might find you are more likely to be out of sync with a partner and their desires.

Tips for enjoying sex into later life

  • Some health conditions or medications can impact on sexual function or desire, but this could be treatable or avoidable. Don’t just assume because you are older, side effects are inevitable and you have to put up with it; have a chat with your doctor.
  • If you are struggling to achieve orgasm with a partner, try masturbating on your own, with or without a sex toy. It’s a great way of rediscovering what works for you without the pressure of feeling like you have to perform.
  • Talk to your partner, if you have one, about changes you are experiencing as you get older. If you’re in a long term relationship it can be hard to shift habits and introduce a new approach to sex, but it could give you a new lease of life. If you’re struggling to talk about sex with a new partner, check out our Pillow Talk tips.
  • It's natural for your sex drive to decrease over the years - breaking up your normal routine, possibly introducing sex toys to your relationship, and not focusing only on penetrative sex can help you explore new and different ways to find sexual satisfaction.
  • It’s natural for older women to experience vaginal dryness. As well as using lube, avoid soaps and shower gels which can cause further dryness. Hormone replacement therapy can help reduce vaginal dryness or you can try an oestrogen cream which can help increase natural lubrication.
  • As women get older there is less blood flow to the clitoris and vagina, which reduces sensitivity, so orgasms can be more difficult to achieve and less intense; pelvic floor exercises can help increase vaginal sensation and intensify orgasms.
  • Rediscovering your sensual side doesn’t have to directly involve sex; sometimes giving other areas of your life a spring clean can have a positive impact on your feelings of desire. Try wearing clothes that make you feel sexy, learn an exciting new hobby for a confidence boost, or discover your erotic side by watching or reading a sexy film or book.
  • People from the ‘baby boom’ generation who grew up in the wake of the contraceptive pill being introduced may never had or rarely used condoms. If you are dating again in later life, even if you don’t need to worry about pregnancy, it’s important to remember that condoms are the only method of contraception that can help protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Diagnoses of STIs among older people have been on the rise in recent years.

Our new website FPA Pleasure has articles and blog posts about sexual enjoyment and wellbeing for men and women of all ages, as well as toys and accessories.

Our booklet People Over 50: Relationships and Sexual Health also has lots of helpful advice.

Download People Over 50: Relationships and Sexual Health (PDF)

Buy People Over 50: Relationships and Sexual Health

Support for professionals

It’s important not to make assumptions about patients or customers based on age. We know that people continue to enjoy active sex lives well into later life, just as we know some young people experience periods of sexual dysfunction.

It’s important to treat people as individuals, and provide a supportive environment in which they can talk openly about their sexual pleasure and wellbeing, and not just at times when they have a problem.

Resources

Download People Over 50: Relationships and Sexual Health (PDF)

Buy People Over 50: Relationships and Sexual Health

Training

You can commission training from us to work with your clinical or pharmacy team and help build communication skills and confidence to talk about sexual pleasure as part of sexual health.