Sex after Sixty-Five  

“No personal confession or revelation impends here, but these feelings in old folks are widely treated like a raunchy secret.” (From Roger Angell’s “This Old Man: Life in the Nineties.”)

In contrast to my usual posts on this site, there will be no personal revelations by me here either, other than to say that sex after sixty-five should not be a raunchy secret.

There it is. I’ve said the word!

Although I may have missed it, I don’t think that the word “sex” has been mentioned in any of the posts or comments for “Over 65”. Most surely, that doesn’t mean that there is an assumption of little sex over the age of sixty-five, does it? Or, that our bloggers and readers are not familiar with sex over the age of sixty-five? It also can’t be, can it, that we are still as prudish about sex as we might have been in our youth, before the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s? Even the famous Beatle’s song from that era, “When I’m 64”, did not even obliquely refer to sex at that age. Perhaps, though, there is an underlying fear of its actual or potential loss over time, kicking in the psychological defense mechanism of denial.

Whatever the reasons, let’s see if it is relevant to begin talking about sex over the age of sixty-five. Other than being paid for in the case of prostitution or companionship, sex doesn’t have any healthcare costs, and its benefits for health and well-being can be invaluable.

Interestingly enough, it seems that much of the useful research comes from outside of the USA. David Weeks, the former head of Old Age Psychology at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, has spent three decades exploring the factors that contribute to elders looking and feeling younger than their chronological age. Some of his work is summarized in his book, Secrets of the Superyoung. Other related information I found on a recent trip to Canada in perusing Zoomer, the Canadian equivalent of the AARP magazine in the USA. In particular, the article Sex: The Good News About Aging, by Leanne Delap, summarizes a presentation Dr. Weeks made in the summer of 2013 at the British Psychological Society meeting.

Prior research from the 1950s had indicated that the frequency of sexual intercourse (for men) and enjoyment (for women) predicted longevity (see E. Palmore: Predictors of the Longevity Difference: a 25 year follow-up). This finding has apparently not been confirmed in recent years, but in our modern times, perhaps both frequency and enjoyment are a reasonable goal for both sexes.

Weeks concluded in his talk that there are quality of life benefits besides any quantity of life benefits:

 “Sexual satisfaction is a major contribution to quality of life, ranking at least as high as spiritual or religious commitment and other morale factors, so more positive attitudes towards mature sex should be vigorously promoted.”

How might healthy sexual relationships do this in the elderly? It naturally releases human growth hormone, which helps keep the skin elastic, with fewer wrinkles. It improves mood with the release of endorphins and oxytocin. It increases prolactin, which in turn helps sleep.

Whereas sex can be good for health, health can also be good – and necessary – for sex. As we age and health problems increase, these problems in health can reduce the pleasures of sex. Viagra and its medication relatives can help one particular problem in men, but many others don’t have such a ready solution.

Of course, there are risks and possible “side effects” to sex. Enjoyable sex in a long-term, committed relationship is the best situation. Good enough health in both partners for safe and enjoyable sex is important. More sexual intercourse seems better, and with orgasm, better yet. Presumably, though less researched, sexual intimacy other than intercourse can provide some of the same benefits.

As we age and get into our 80s and 90s, these are also social factors that are influential. Opportunities for intimate partners diminish, especially for women, who, as a group, live longer than men. Those of that age are increasingly using on-line dating services to increase opportunities. Perhaps, if intimacy is still not available for one reason or another, self-stimulation accompanied by memories of enjoyable intimate sex can have some benefits.

More research is needed. Awaiting that, ingenuity and patience may be necessary. Who knows, but maybe the sexually active of the eldest can teach the youngest something about the joys of sex.

If having sex with less-known and more partners, the elderly need to take some of the same precautions as those younger, even though the pregnancy risk is not present. That means men using condoms. That means checking for sexually transmitted diseases.

I wrote of the major questions and concerns of some of the products of the anti-aging industry in a prior post on this site. Now, I realized that sex wasn’t mentioned in the anti-aging products or by me in the blog. Perhaps it is because sex can be free and money usually not made off of it in the elderly, though to be sure, Pharma is peddling controversial treatments for “low T”, even to men much younger than 65.

Yet, it appears that good sex over the age of 65 may provide some sips from a fountain of youth. We should enjoy it, as we can, when we can.

H. Steven Moffic, M.D., 67, retired from clinical practice at 66. He was fondly deemed a “psychiatric gadfly” by the Chair of the Department of Psychiatry where he first trained. His book The Ethical Way: Challenges and Solutions for Managed Behavioral Healthcare, published in 1997, was the first extended discussion of the ethics of managed mental health care. In addition to his posts on Over 65, he blogs at Psychiatric Times as well.


22 Responses to “Sex after Sixty-Five  ”

  1. Steve Moffic

    My friend and colleague, Barry Blackwell, M.D., read this blog before he left the country to France “keeping an elderly eye on all the Mademoiselles!”, and asked me to post his comments:
    “When I enrolled in the Seminary (after his retirement from psychiatry) I told them I had given up medicine but not sex”.
    “Now that we have the Viagra genre of drugs there is every reason to believe that sexual activity is being prolonged into the upper decades and well past 65. I speak as an octogenarian. But what is odd is that the manufacturers of these drugs who advertise them heavily present us with visual images of much younger folks ‘waiting for the right moment’. Perhaps, unusually for these masters of greed, they are missing a market?”

    • Nevaeh

      Fiindng this post. It’s just a big piece of luck for me.

  2. Steve Moffic

    Thanks to Dr. Blackwell for being so open and forthcoming in his responsiveness. His comment about Pharma and its advertising illustrates some of the ageism that effects the perception of the importance of sexuality in all its variety in the elderly. I hope our readers will feel that way and looking forward to any other comments.

    Dr. Moffic

  3. Charles Wiseman

    An important, appropriate, an certainly much-needed comment. One of the most profound- and then obvious principles– is that sex means different things to different people at different times of life. The after-65 group must cope with changes in body habitus and function just as adolescents must, albeit those changes are not fortuitous ones. This issue does not deserve prudery or sniggling anymore than the sexuality of teenagers. It also probably warrants more formalized sex education, certainly physicians should be proactive. The suggestion that advertisers have a role in shaping societal consciousness is insightful– what else to be done socially/politically to ‘open a conversation’ ?

    • Steve Moffic

      Very helpful comments, insights, and questions, Charles. Probably the only fortuitous changes are that partners know each others physical functions better as they have aged together. I wonder how often physicians bring this up and educate to the elderly. Mine has asked once in several years. Do geriatric physicians do so any more than family practitioners? Do they try to involve the spouse? As to more social/political conversation, the AARP may be a key here to do more, as well as our readers here.


  4. Ran

    Very interesting article and thoughts. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see if those of us who look younger than our physical age have a more “active” sex life. Just a thought.
    On another note, it was noted that as we mature, based on our illness, medications, body changes, etc. there may be frustration and unwellness due to not being able to have climax or even intercourse. But I feel that there is more to the sexual interaction than the ultimate climax.
    When we are younger the physicial act of sexual interaction is the most important part of our evolutionary journey – to procreate. Yes, in the human organism, the brain centers of pleasure are most definitely involved, but that just gives us an excuse to interact. As we mature and age, isn’t the sexual interaction between couples more than the physical. Isn’t it more about connecting with your spouse or significant other. Even when the physical limitations are present for both the female and the male, we should not focus on “failure”, but rather thank each other for the time to be “close”, to have human touch, to communicate, and be grateful for the ability to “be there” for the other. If we focus on the later, than we can help our patients (and ourselves) be comfortable with whatever limitations we have. When there is medication, therapy, etc., then the physical may be part of the act, but there is always the intimate, spiritual human interaction which we can benefit from and look forward to.

    • Steve Moffic

      Your points are very well-taken, Ran, points which I very much did not focus on as much as I should have. The joys of sex, and the benefits of sex, in the elderly are much more than orgasms, as you say. “Sexual satisfaction” can be – and should be – much broader. Much will depend on the partners not letting old sexual expectations drive them apart. Other forms of intimacy have many special psychological and physical benefits of their own.
      Communication is a key with couples, with public education, and in the patient-physician relationship.

  5. rpsrivastava

    I above 65 ,but i am taking too interest in sex, but my partenr not intersted. At these situation i am too frusteted….what can do now.

  6. Katie

    At 64 I rediscovered how much I enjoyed sex. Now it seems I cannot get enough. I have multiple sexual partners and enjoy all of them. Nice to see I am a normal woman.

    • Richard

      I have had prostate cancer and a radical prosectomy at age 65. I am 72 and after using the oral dosages and the injection, I have gone to the penial implant. I am doing great, but always wonder what women feel about the implant. I have no trouble with it and needless to say I have to put it down when done. I get all the feelings, but the lack of semen. I know some women enjoy that part, but I guess you could say, I am a clean cut kind of guy.

      • Rhona

        Richard, My lover cannot any longer produce the visual aspect of orgasm…CUM. We miss that….but he still does orgasm at 84!!!!! He and I both have an incredible mind blowing sexual romp with role playing, dressing up, sub-dom play…etc….BUT, have told him do not get hung up on cum. He videos andtaked photos so cum is fabricated out of things that are eedible like yoghurt and milk for optimum photos and vids which really get him off!!! Wishing you much success.

  7. Maxwell Odonkor

    I have not being having sex for some time now i am at 56 years and above what would the side effect be

    • Virgin Mary

      Contact me. I would like to have a conversation with

      • Virgin Mary

        I really am interested in talking to you

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  9. Anup

    It keeps me younger than my physical age. One needs it provided his partner is co operative.

  10. Milton

    The key to sex after 65 is continuity with one partner and leading a healthy lifestyle of excercise and eating healthy foods .If a couple have had constant sex over many years and have kept fit and healthy and attractive their sex lives should continue into the future
    The other key to continued sex is the couple must set aside time daily for sex just like one sets aside time to eat rest etc
    Just for the record we have sex almost daily for at least 15 min are both in our sixties and my wife who is multi orgasmic has intense orgasms which have been getting longer with age .She also is never dry and is always ready without artificial appliances and has a body of a woman half her age .She works out every day . What hard work you put in is what you get out in satisfaction in the bedroom .There are no short cuts .
    The key to sex is having one partner who you trust and especially for women who will open up their sexual repertoire because they feel comfortable

  11. Virgin Mary

    Can you give my email to Steve Laycock?