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Over-65s find it difficult to talk about sex

Published on 19 February 2013 12:00 AM

In a poll for Age UK of people aged over 65, over a quarter (28%) felt they couldn't talk to their partner about sex, and over two thirds (69%) have never sought sexual health advice.


People aged over 65+ have spoken openly about attitudes to sex as we get older, revealing a desire to remain sexually active - but a lack understanding about where to go for advice.

The online poll for Age UK was commissioned to highlight the role of sex and sexual health in later life, helping to dispel some of the stereotypes and taboos around older people and sexual relationships. With a quarter (24%) of those polled stating that age hasn't affected their sex lives, the survey shows that sex remains important, whatever your age.

Let's (not) talk about sex

The survey highlights the extent to which sex remains an important part of our later years, with almost two thirds (62%) of over-65s in the survey saying that they are currently enjoying a fulfilling sex life.

What's more, a wish to keep the spark alive came through in the findings, as one in eight (12%) said they would like to try new things with their partner and just under one in five (18%) wanting to be more sexually active. 8% of those who took part in the survey were keen to embark on a new sexual relationship. 

Despite this desire for a fulfilling sex life in later life, the survey revealed that many of the older generation find it difficult to talk to partners or health workers about sex.

Over a quarter (28%) feel they can't talk to their partner, with women finding it harder to disclose their feelings than men. Reasons behind the silence included embarrassment and not knowing how to initiate the conversation. 

Time for a check-up

It's a myth that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are only a problem for younger people. According to a study by the Health Protection Agency, there has recently been an increase in the number of over-45s affected by STIs.

However, the Age UK research shows that the reluctance to speak out also applies when it comes to finding out about sexual health.

Over  two thirds of over-65s (69%) in the survey admit they have never sought any type of sexual health advice. The findings also revealed: 

  • Three quarters (76%) of over-65s do not currently seek sexual health advice 
  • Just one in seven (14%) have sought sexual advice in the last 20 years
  • Almost half (46%) of those in later life feel they don't need any sexual health advice, rising to 54% of women   

The poll found that the most likely source of sexual health information is a nurse or doctor, with 17% of those polled turning to their healthcare professional for help.

Commenting on the survey, Lucy Harmer, Head of Information and Advice at Age UK, said: 'Our research shows that having a healthy sex life is important to us regardless of our age. However, we also found that many older people may find it hard to speak up about sex, be it to their partner, friends or healthcare professionals.

'Age UK is keen to increase awareness of the importance of seeking out information and advice on sex - whatever your age. Some people's knowledge will be based on guidance received when they were first sexually active a number of years ago - and it's vital that those in later life have access to relevant, up-to-date information.'

Where can people find out more information?

Age UK offers free, friendly, and impartial advice to people in later life, their friends, family and carers. Contact Age UK Advice free on 0800 169 65 65 to find out more about maintaining a healthy sex life, including information on how to speak to people about sex, staying safe and making sex more comfortable as we age.

Lucy Harmer continued: 'The changes that many people face as we age, such as the menopause or finding our joints become less supple, don't necessarily mean our sex life has to stop. The right information and advice will help people in later life to keep sexually active and healthy for as long as desired.'


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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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