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Planning Retirement Online

Everything you want to know about sex in later life

July 2004


Everything you want to know about sex in laterlife

The secret is out .  The taboo has been lifted. We’ve been outed. People are having a great sex life after fifty or sixty or seventy or even ninety! That, at least, is what the studies and statistics are saying.

I must confess that I am a little wary of the findings. I suspect that some people in older age groups are leading the researchers astray. Could they be deliberately misleading them in order to sound as sexy as everyone is supposed to be these days? 



Still, many of us wouldn’t mind at all improving our sex lives, and there are many publications available to help us do so.  A new one that covers the ground comprehensively and knowledgeably is  Intimate Relations: living and loving in later life  by Dr. Sarah Brewer.

It is her medical descriptions of the physiological changes that come with age that make this book more helpful than most.  One of the common causes of male sexual impotence is problems with the prostate gland. Treatments themselves often cause side effects that lead to erectile dysfunction (ED). But there are a variety of  procedures according to Dr. Brewer that will lessen the side effects. 

Too often, the doctor or surgeon does not explore  the sexual consequences when talking about treatment choices and many of us are too embarrassed to ask.  Foremost in any patient’s mind is how to deal with the disease - not how it will affect your sex life. 

Common physical changes for women affect sex life and can lead to relationship difficulties.  Vaginal dryness, thinning of vaginal tissue are subjects easier to read about than discuss with a doctor. Cystitis, an inflammation or infection of the bladder , affects  as many as one in two women at some time during their life.  Dr. Brewer describes the symptoms, explains the causes, and provides extensive advice for treatment. 

On the subject of sexual positions, the good doctor offers suggestions for those not as agile as they used to be.  No need to resign yourself to the missionary position and nothing else. She describes positions that are especially helpful if the male has limited mobility or strength due to illness and others that are to be avoided if either partner has hip or knee problems.

Out from under the covers is the subject of vibrators.  Early versions were not only grotesque to look at but anatomically not very effective for women’s needs.  This is changing, and manufacturers are looking at new ranges of vibrators – now beginning to be referred to as vibes –which are specifically designed to appeal to women. One such range, which has been designed for women by women, has been endorsed by Relate –the couples counselling charity.

Vibrators can provide pleasure and release for many older women who are no longer in an intimate relationship or who have never have had a long-term relationship. Masturbation (or self-pleasuring) is a normal activity that most adults enjoy on a regular basis. Don’t feel guilty about this, Dr Brewer says. It is important to help you cope with your natural sexual desires

Discussing a relationship or sexual problem can be difficult and embarrassing for many people, even with a long-time partner. Dr. Brewer devotes a chapter to improving communications. For many, just reading Dr. Brewer’s book will be as much as you need to refresh a loving relationship

Intimate Relations: living and loving in later life, by Dr. Sarah Brewer MA MB Bchir. Published by Age Concern Books. Available from all good bookshops, or by contacting Age Concern Books on 0870 44 22 120, address PO Box 232, Newton Abbot , Devon , TQ12 4XQ.  9.99 plus 1.95 p&p. 

Or order on line at 



Some of the statistics… 

  • Recent studies by Age Concern have found that at least 50 per cent of men and women over the age of  70 are sexually active.

  • Only a minority of people (less than 30 per cent) feel there's a decline in sexual response and feelings.

  • Nearly two-thirds of older people felt that sex was just as good as when they were younger, while one-third reported that sex was even better.  One thing that might suggest this is that we are older and feel more comfortable with ourselves as well as our partners, and that we have a greater understanding of sex.

  • About 80 per cent of older people who are sexually active have sexual intercourse once a week or more. 

  • A woman of 80 has the same potential for an orgasm as she did when she was 20.
  • 30 per cent have sexual relations three times a week.

  • 20 per cent report sexual relations twice a week.

  • Sex needs love trust approval and warmth these are the same needs and desires for every age.

  • A staggering 99 per cent desire sexual relationships at a varying frequency if they could have sex whenever they wanted to.



laterlife interest

The above article is part of the features section of called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

It includes both one off articles and also regular columns of a more specialist nature such as healthwise, reports from the REACH files, and a beauty section called looking good in later life.

Also don't forget to take a look at our regular IT question and answer section called YoucandoIT by IT trainer and author Jackie Sherman.

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