Sex and aging has become an issue of growing popularity. At the same time, with changing dietary and activity patterns, and new medical treatments, many people in their senior years are relatively healthy and desirous of continuing an active life, including an active sex life. While prior to the 1960s the topic of sex in later life was consciously ignored in the media, not included in most sex research, and considered an inappropriate issue for public discussion, today it is receiving increasing attention.

Indeed, the first serious book on the topic was not published until the 1960s, and the first reliable study did not appear until 1966 with the publication of the seminal work of sex researchers Masters and Johnson.

Even now the topic of sexuality and aging is often treated with tremendous sentimentality or with derisive humor, and it is hard for some people to conceive of sexual desire and passion among the elderly except in terms of lechery. While perhaps receding in the popular imagination, the image of the "dirty old man" that chases after young women has not disappeared.

Moreover, until recently, feelings of sexuality and sexual need among those over 60 years of age might be cause for guilt feelings, based on the culturally constructed assumption that people were supposed to "mature out of" sexual interest and become sexual neuters as they entered into their so-called "golden years."

New studies, like "The Starr-Weiner Report on Sex and Sexuality in the Mature Years" (1981) and "E. Brecher's Love, Sex, and Aging" (1984) have provided new information about sexual behavior and attitudes among those over 60 years of age. The understanding of normal sexual needs and practices among the elderly that emerges from this research contradicts earlier assumptions and stereotypes.

Aging Doesn't Diminish Sex Drive

Generally, this research has found that age typically does not significantly diminish the need and desire for sex, that regular sexual activity is standard when a partner is available, and that most elderly believe that sex contributes to both physical and psychological health.

Furthermore, studies have shown that physical capacity for male erection and male and female orgasm continue almost indefinitely, and that achieving orgasm is desired but not always achieved. Research has also found that sexual practices are varied and include masturbation and oral sex, in addition to intercourse, and, for many, sexual satisfaction increases rather than decreases as individuals enter into their senior years.