Shhhh…sex doesn’t stop in your 60s
Published on 19 February 2013 12:30 AM
Yet over-65s find it difficult to talk about sex
• A quarter (24%) of over-65s surveyed say their sexual lifestyle hasn't changed despite their age
• Over a quarter (28%) feel they can't talk to their partner about sex
• Over two thirds (69%) of those in later life have never sought sexual health advice
• Almost one in 10 (8%) over-65s are keen to embark on a new sexual relationship
People aged 65+ have spoken openly about attitudes to sex as we get older, revealing a desire to remain sexually active - but a lack of 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, regardless of age.
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. Just under one in five (18%) want to be more sexually active - rising to over a quarter (27%) amongst men. Almost one in 10 (8%) over-65s polled are keen to embark on a new sexual relationship.
Let's (not) talk about sex
Despite being keen to enjoy a fulfilling sex life in later years, 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.(1) Meanwhile just 17 per cent feel comfortable speaking to health workers. 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,(2) there has recently been an increase in the number of over-45s affected by STIs. However, the Age UK survey 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
Commenting on the survey, Lucy Harmer, Head of Information and Advice at Age UK, said: 'Our survey 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.
'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.'
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. Visit the Age UK Homepage 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. People can also contact their GP with any sexual health questions or concerns.
For further information, case studies and spokespeople, please contact Emma Russell (tel: 0207 009 3145) or Laura Gordon (tel: 0207 009 3159) at 3 Monkeys Communications or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Notes to editors
*A total of 2,000 UK adults over 65, and 2,000 UK adults under 50, were surveyed via an online poll. The survey was carried out by Vision Critical in November 2012.
1) The Age UK survey showed 30 per cent of men don't talk to their partner about sex compared to 26 per cent of men
2) According to research by the Health Protection Agency: http://www.hpa.org.uk/
For media enquiries relating to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland please contact the appropriate national office: Age Scotland on 0131 668 8055, Age Cymru on 029 2043 1562 and Age NI on 028 9024 5729.
About Age UK:
Age UK, the force dedicated to improving later life provides free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and wellbeing, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle. We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI (together the Age UK Family), our local Age UK partners in England and local Age Concerns. We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.
Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we"). Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).