Intimacy and dating in social context

Having satisfying sexual and intimate relationships and keeping sexually active has been shown to increase our health, wellbeing and enjoyment of life as we age. As we get older, the way we have sex may change for many reasons, including reduced mobility. This does not mean that we become less interested in sex, we just might approach sex in new ways and find what suits us best. 

Many older adults continue to have an active sex life well into their later lives. A study found that in Australia, 72% of people over the age of 60 engage in sexual activities including vaginal or anal intercourse, giving or receiving oral sex, and mutual masturbation. 

For some of us, sex feels more taboo because of misconceptions that are widespread in our society about age and sexual activity. In particular, there are some gendered stereotypes or myths about older women being less interested in sex that are frustratingly common. 

Research shows that it is more complex than this. Sexual function (including desire, arousal, and ability to orgasm) has been shown to drop during the menopause transition for some women. Hormones are not the only reason for this; social, emotional and physical factors can also reduce our sexual function.

But this does not usually last longer than one-year post-menopause. 

Illustration in relationships in a social context

It is perfectly normal to continue wanting and enjoying sex. Because our needs differ from when we were younger, it is essential to get advice that is suitable for our stage of life and to seek out healthcare when we need it. 

It is important that we feel empowered to have conversations about sex with people that we trust. It is crucial to have a doctor who understands and respects our sexual needs as we get older. You can find many resources that can provide you with more information – some of which are listed on this webpage. 

Intimate relationships come in many forms and there is no “normal”. Intimate relationships are not limited to specific sexual orientations or gender identities. People of all sexual orientations and gender identities can engage in many different types of relationships. The information included in this section is general, but it can apply to any type of relationship.

Below, you can watch a video from Relate, a UK based organisation that is dedicated to fostering healthy relationships. In this video, you can listen to older people discussing how their sex lives have changed as they got older and how much joy they have found in this changing dynamic.


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