Among those 75 years or older who had ever married, 58% of women and 28% of men had experienced the death of a spouse in their lifetime, making this stage of life particularly difficult for older adults.
Among men and women 60 to 69 years old, 23% had married twice and less than 10% had married three times or more. Among those ages 70 or older, 22% of men and 19% of women had married twice while 8% of men and 6% of women had married three times or more.
Sex and Aging: As women age, they have fewer thoughts and fantasies related to sex. Vaginal lubrication is also reduced, and so does sexual satisfaction as per multiple pieces of research. It is mostly attributed to the availability of an interested partner. The declining estrogen levels affect sexuality. It can cause considerable discomfort during intercourse.While young women can be sexually aroused through foreplay which includes touching, kissing, eroticism, role play, and clitoral stimulation, such is not the case as they age.
Sex and the Society: The lower levels of sexual activity and desire in older women are strongly interlinked with the associated societal feedback and apathy to the sexual needs of older women. Better sexual well-being can be ensured for older women by changing the attitude of the society at large towards aging and acceptance and acknowledgment of their sexual expression.
Take Away: For younger women, sexual drive and pleasure come easy and quick. Sex life can be very exciting for them. But for older women, a number of physiological factors associated lead to a lesser sex drive and poor expression of sexuality.
Approximately 43% women reported that their sexuality was affected by increasing age, while 56.7% men reported their sexuality being affected by their deteriorating health [Table 1]. It was interesting to know that 20% of women subjects were affected sexually due to loss of partner or other family member as compared to 3.3% men. These findings were statistically significant (P=0.008).
Above 50 years, more women (56.6%) had stopped sexual activity at some time due to varied reasons than men (16.6%) (P=0.012). Thirty percent women in our study reported loss of sexual interest in self as the cause of stopping their activity, as compared to 6.7% men who reported a loss of interest to be the cause. This was also reflected the other way round. Of the men who had stopped sexual activity, 3.3% attributed it to the loss of partner's interest in sex. Women, on the other hand, did not report anything like this. Overall, we found sexual activity in elder men to be more than in elder women. As pointed out earlier, men reported sexual inactivity because of lack of desire, ill health, or erectile dysfunction in their old age, whereas women reported sexual inactivity due to loss of partner.
All women in our study reported a difference in vaginal lubrication as compared to that in young age. Twenty percent women in group I reported poor quality of lubrication, as opposed to 40% women from group II who reported poor quality of lubrication, insufficient for intercourse (P=0.4).
We asked the subjects to compare their current sexual capacity with their capacity 1 year after their marriage. Sex now was worse than before for 75% of them (76% for women, 73% for men). Subjects with any illness (84%) reported greater worsening of sexual pleasure as compared to those without illness (59%) (P=0.07; likelihood=0.05). Although this was not statistically significant (P=0.06), more number of subjects in group II (83%) reported worse orgasm at this age than when they were young (likelihood ratio=0.04). Similarly, subjects with illness reported higher reduction (81%) in the intensity of orgasm as compared to those who were healthy (54%) (P=0.07; likelihood=0.05). A larger percentage (71.4%) of subjects in group II did not get distressed by this decrease in orgasmic intensity. This difference in perception of orgasm with age was statistically significant (P=0.04). Working subjects with no illness adjusted best and expected this age-related change in orgasmic intensity (P=0.03). On the other hand, people who were not working or people with illness were less adjusted to this change. Both these findings were statistically significant.
Deacon et al. suggest that a decline in sexual activity for men is less likely to be due to the lack of a partner, while in women it is more likely to be due to this reason and that too at any age. George and Weiler similarly reported illness and deteriorating health as the major reason for reduced sexual desires and activity in men in their study, while women reported loss of partner as the major factor. Loss of partner is both commoner and more of a handicap for women in that they survive longer than men and tend to be younger than their husbands. The greater decrease in sexual desire in women at all age groups in our study may reflect the influence of socio-cultural factors in determining the libido of elderly women.
The interest as well as involvement in both sexual and non-sexual activities was reported to be significantly less by women in our study, which reflected the findings of Lindau et al. who reported that women were less likely than men at all ages to report sexual activity. Men in our sample were more interested as well as involved in both these activities, as was seen by Pfeiffer et al. In an earlier Indian study, Sanger et al. had reported a rate of 63.2% non-coital activity in their sample of 120 elderly men. Changes in sexual expression and preferred sexual activity may be common with advancing age, and one can see a shift from sexual activity to non-sexual petting and caressing or touching.
Corresponding to this finding, women in our study reported decreased vaginal lubrication which pointed to an important age-related change in the physiology in women, that may be responsible for painful intercourse, if the vaginal walls become excessively thin.
In a sexual encounter, the subjects in our sample stuck to the conventional sexual roles, with men preferring to perform as active partners and women as passive. In most sexual encounters, there has to be one active (masculine) and one passive (feminine) partner. Men and women tend to conform to their gender roles and behave as active or passive in their sexual encounters, which probably continues in old age.
The areas of love and intimacy remained same as they were in their youth for a large percentage of our subjects. Cultural factors probably reflect in the solidarity of relationships till old age. In men, whether or not erectile capacity is retained, the decision to continue intimacy is often socio-cultural. The quality and frequency of intimacy and intercourse may decline with age; however, satisfaction with sexuality may not be affected.
It was the educated subjects who attributed a greater importance to sex in their relationship with their spouses, which shows that education does play a vital role in sexuality and intimacy. Knowledge of sexuality and its importance may perhaps enhance its role in an educated individual's relationship. This finding definitely opens up new areas in research on the role of education in sexual attitudes. Pfeiffer and Davis had pointed out that educational level is an important predictor of sexual interest, frequency and enjoyment for women.
Both sexes reported a significant increase in the time required for sexual arousal. The reasons for stopping sexual activity differed significantly in case of either gender, with loss of a partner in women and deteriorating health in men being the most important ones. Love and intimacy stayed the same for majority of our subjects.
Women's sexual desires naturally fluctuate over the years. Highs and lows commonly coincide with the beginning or end of a relationship or with major life changes, such as pregnancy, menopause or illness. Some medications used for mood disorders also can cause low sex drive in women.
For many women, emotional closeness is an essential prelude to sexual intimacy. So problems in your relationship can be a major factor in low sex drive. Decreased interest in sex is often a result of ongoing issues, such as:
Although many older adults reportedly maintain an active sex life, limited research has focused on the reasons they engage in sex. The present study identified and described sexual motives in the second half of life reported by 47 older adults. Twenty-four men (51%) and 23 women (49%) aged 60-91 (M = 66, SD = 8.1) were interviewed. In-depth interviews were thematically analyzed using the theory of motivational approach-avoidance and personal-interpersonal motivational framework. Five main themes were identified: (a) to maintain overall functioning, (b) to feel young again, (c) to feel attractive and desirable, (d) from lust to love, and (e) from "getting sex" to "giving sex." Investigating sexual motives in the second half of life can improve the understanding of older adults' sexual behavior, function, and satisfaction.
Women who stay positive about the aging process and maintain self-confidence can even experience an increased libido. In contrast, women who perceive aging signs as unattractive, poor body image, and loss of feminitiy often suffer from reduced sexual desire or drive.
A study conduced on women over 60 years old has found that about 55% of married women are sexually active compared to 5% of unmarried women. Interestingly, it has been found that sexual satisfaction increases with age in women.
Age-related deterioration in health can also affect libido in women. For example, women with heart problems have reduced blood supply to sex organs including vagina, leading to lack of lubrication and arousal. Moreover, certain medicines used to treat health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and incontinence, can reduce sexual drive in women.
For many women, a reduce libido does not significantly affect their overall sextual activity and quality of life. However, a chronic or recurrent lack of libido sometimes causes emotional distress, such as anxiety and depression. 2b1af7f3a8