When people talk about sex in mid-life and beyond, they usually speak of the physical changes that happen with old age that affect your sex life. However, discussed less frequently is the psychological side of sex and how it changes with age. For example, how does one’s self-perception as an aging person affect sexuality?
Research Shows Feeling Old Affects Quality of Sex Life
Science actually offers answers to these types of questions. One recent study was published in the Journal of Sex Research and looked at data collected from 1,170 American adults that ranged in age from their early 40s to their mid-70s. The volunteers were of diverse sexual orientations. The study participants took two surveys, one in 1995 and one in 2005, that asked about their sex life, how young they feel compared to their actual age (also known as subjective age) and how positively they feel towards people of different age groups.
Upon analyzing the data, researchers discovered that feeling older than you actually are is a predictor of losing interest in sex and plummeting sexual satisfaction in the future. By contrast, people in the study who felt younger than their actual age were much less likely to experience this decline.
Additionally, those who reported a positive attitude toward people who were older than themselves were more likely to maintain their sexual satisfaction as they got older. This is likely because those who have a negative opinion of older people may believe negative stereotypes about old age, and because they believe in these stereotypes it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy due to the power of the mind.
Sexuality Later in Life: Myths Versus Facts
What kinds of stereotypes about old age, if believed, can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy in regards to your sex life? There are various stereotypes surrounding getting older and about sexuality in older adults in particular. Many people assume that once you pass middle age, sex stops being an important part of your life. This is a total myth and the science proves it. One study, conducted in 2007 at the University of Chicago, surveyed people between the age of 57 and 85 about their sexual activity. The results of this survey showed that:
- 84 percent of men aged 57 to 64 had sex within the past year
- By ages 75 to 85, this number had only dropped to 39 percent
- 39 percent of women aged 57 to 64 had sex within the past year
- By ages 75 to 85, this number had only dropped to 19 percent for women
Basically, this study shows that older adults still have sex. The lower number of older women having sex compared to older men is thought to be due to menopause, which can cause vaginal dryness and stiffness that makes sex uncomfortable, as well as to the fact that women live longer than men, making women more likely to become widowed and therefore not have a sexual partner.
Essentially, if you believe that sex is just not something older people do, then you’ll be more likely to put up with a declining sex life and not do anything about it; after all, that’s what’s natural, right? Certainly not! Instead of succumbing to stereotypes about the way your sex life should be in old age, look at the scientific facts on the subject and let them inspire you. Another study to consider is a British one that involved 4,000 adults: About 75 percent of people under the age of 45 considered themselves sexually satisfied and this statistic remained around 75 percent even after the age of 65.
Age is Just a Number: Ways to Feel Younger Again
Despite the fact that a good portion of older adults are still sexually active and sexually satisfied, it’s still true that getting older can put a bit of a damper on things. You can prevent this, or reverse it if it’s already happening, by helping yourself feel younger again. After all, the above-mentioned study proves that feeling younger improves your sex life.
Feeling physically young is a very important aspect of this. Your muscles, joints, circulation and nervous system need to all be functioning healthfully in order for you to enjoy sex. An excellent nutrition and exercise regimen is essential for staying feeling physically young. Avoid tobacco, alcohol and other substances, as these will make you feel physically older despite the short-term pleasure they may provide.
The psychological side of staying young at heart may be even more important. Feel young mentally and emotionally by:
- adapting to the changing world
- keeping up on current events, technological and scientific developments and ideas
- learning new things every day
- trying new things regularly
- taking risks
- continuing to grow and change as a person
- surrounding yourself with positive people
- treating other people with kindness
- giving back to the world (i.e. volunteering)
There are other reasons besides sexual satisfaction to put effort into feeling young at heart. One study of 6,500 people, conducted at the University College London, found that people who feel younger than they really are actually live longer.