What does it mean to be sexually satisfied? For the elderly, it goes beyond the bedroom
12/01/2019 // Edsel Cook // Views

As people get older, they start looking for more than just physical attraction. New research shows that older people require clear communication, good health, and a happy relationship to feel satisfied during sex.

Studies have shown that sexual expression remains essential throughout life. It helps preserve ties between people, increases self-esteem, and improves health and well-being. As such, healthcare professionals need guidelines for helping older patients enjoy their sex life.

U.K. researchers looked at what affected sexual activity and satisfaction in later years. They also studied people's responses to the effects of health, lifestyle, and relationship factors.

In addition to getting survey data from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3), the researchers also interviewed older men and women. The participants nearly reached 3,500 in number.

The world's largest and most thorough study of sexual attitudes and lifestyles, Natsal-3 provides the U.K. government with the data it needs to set sexual and reproductive health policy in the country. (Related: Study reveals that older people who are regularly sexually active have better cognitive function and mental health.)

Good communication and a happy relationship make sex satisfying for older people

They found that 25 percent of the men and one out of every six women complained about having a health-related issue that disrupted their sex life. In this group, women displayed less inclination than men to engage in sex during the last six months. At the same time, women proved likelier to express satisfaction with their sex lives.


Next, the researchers took a sample of the participants and conducted follow-up interviews. They learned that older people tended to lump together the symptoms of failing health and the natural signs associated with aging.

The researchers found that poor well-being affected sexual activity in various ways. In particular, it exerted a considerable effect on the absence or presence of a sexual partner in a person's life.

Older people in such a relationship attached their sexual satisfaction to two factors. First was the quality of communication between them and their partner. The second was their happiness with their relationship.

Furthermore, health problems did not always hamper a sexual relationship. Some participants reported that they enjoyed their sex lives more after trying out different approaches to sexual activity.

Some senior people also displayed greater acceptance of sexual inactivity. This was different from post-orgasmic illness syndrome.

Improving the sexual satisfaction of older patients contributes to their health

“Looking at the impact of health on sexual activity and satisfaction as we age is important, however few studies have examined the relationship between the two," explained London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) researcher Bob Erens. “Health can affect an individual's sex life in various ways, from having or finding a partner, to physical and psychological limitations on sexual expression.”

Erens reported that few patients with sexual issues or unsatisfactory sex lives asked for help. The reluctance might stem from personal choice or the belief that healthcare professionals don't assist with that kind of problem.

While some patients appeared unaffected by the lack of sexual activity, Erens urged healthcare providers to gently ask their patients if they wanted or needed help with their sex lives. Doing so may improve the well-being and lives of older people.

“We're seeing numerous, interconnected factors influencing sexual activity in older people,” explained the University of Glasgow researcher Kirstin Mitchell. “Not being in good health can influence mood, mobility and whether a person has a partner, which in turn impact on sexual activity.”

Mitchell added that taking pharmaceutical drugs for health reasons made sexual problems worse. Furthermore, Viagra and similar drugs didn't always solve the issue. Instead, the researchers urged healthcare professionals to improve the health and lives of older people.

Sources include:



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