[O]ver half of people aged 65 and over (54%) in the North West say they don’t feel like they have enough sex. And around one in three people aged 65 or over (31%) have had sex on a first date since turning 65, or would consider it. That’s according to a new survey on older people and attitudes to sex, published by Independent Age, the older people’s charity.
The survey of 2,002 older people in the UK, carried out by Censuswide and published to coincide with Valentine’s Day, reveals that one in 10 people aged 65 and over (10%) in the North West say they have had multiple sexual partners since they turned 65, the most in the UK. Around one in seven people aged 65 and over (14%) in the North West say one of the only reasons they would stop having sex would be a lack of opportunity.
This survey is published alongside guidance from Independent Age for older people on a range of issues about relationships in later life, be it ending a relationship or starting a new one. The guidance is available for free online at www.independentage.org/relationships.
Other findings from the survey include, in the North West:
- Condoms are the most frequently used form of precaution against Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) among people aged 65 and over, although around one in 13 (8%) say that they do not take any precautions against STDs when they start having sex with a new partner.
- One in eight people aged 65 and over (12%) say having sex is one of the best ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day, the most in the UK.
- Friendship, receiving a hug and having a romantic relationship were picked as some of the most important things to people aged 65 and over.
Lucy Harmer, Director of Services at Independent Age, the older people’s charity, said: “Age is no barrier to having a sex life, and a lot of older people are more sexually active than many people may think. Strong relationships are important in later life, and ideas about friendship, romance and intimacy may well change throughout life. Close relationships can offer emotional support, and can make a difference by staving off loneliness and giving you resilience and support to get through difficult patches in life. However, sex, dating and relationships can be complex, and that does not stop when we get older. The ending of old relationships, and starting new ones, can be emotional, but they can also present financial, legal or practical challenges. To help you through this, our Relationships in Later Life guidance can help you navigate some of the issues you may face.”
The Relationships in Later Life pages include information on:
- Coping with a changing relationship: How to deal with pressures such as retirement and ill health
- Ending a relationship: Separation, divorce and dissolving a civil partnership
- Dating: How to get back into dating in later life
- Sex in later life: Enjoying sex as you get older
- New partners and marrying again: Financial, legal and practical considerations
- Being a grandparent: Tips for new grandparents and advice on common challenges
- Family estrangement: How to cope when family relationships break down
Ten ways to have a great relationship when you’re older (and one for when you don’t)
Lucy Harmer, Director of Services at Independent Age, the older people’s charity, gives her expert advice on how to maintain strong relationships in later life. More advice about later life relationships can be found at www.independentage.org/relationships
Adapt to changes
Changes to your lifestyle such as retirement or ill health can put a strain on your relationship. Make sure you get external support from friends and charities and, where possible, do things for yourself such as keeping active, trying something new like volunteering, and keeping in touch with friends.
Talk to each other
Sometimes when people have been with the same partner for a long time, they may start to feel lonely even if they’re in a relationship. Your partner might be feeling this too, so talk to them about how you feel and try to see things from their perspective. Start a conversation that’s not just about who’s going to put the bins out or make the dinner, but ask for their views on something. Do something you enjoyed when you first got together.
Enjoy your sex life
Communication is at the heart of good sex. Whether it’s a new relationship or you’ve been together for many years, it’s important to keep talking and listening to your partner about what you both want and need. At times you may want sex more or less often than your partner or you may want different things – this is all completely natural and it’s up to you and your partner to work out what you enjoy.
Sex isn’t just about intercourse
Sometimes, intercourse can become more difficult as you age, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a healthy sex life. There are many different forms of intimacy you could explore that could be satisfying. Showing affection and appreciation, kissing, touching and being close are all important and can be just as enjoyable.
Do things you enjoy
Create shared experiences to reconnect with each other and keep the relationship strong. Go out for a walk together, cook together, or take part in a shared hobby. Focus on things that make you both happy, rather than problems you might have in the relationship, and make sure you have plenty of positive interactions with each other.
Have body confidence
All of our bodies change as we get older, and that can affect our confidence and self-esteem. Changes in your body and hormones may also affect your desire. But sexual problems are not an inevitable part of ageing. Your sex life may not be as intense as when you were younger but it can be just as satisfying. A GP or specialist may be able to help with physical problems.
There’s no reason why you can’t be more adventurous in later life and try new things. You may find you have fewer inhibitions than when you were younger and are more willing to experiment. For some people that may include having a same sex relationship for the first time.
Practise safe sex
Pregnancy may no longer be a concern, but you can still get or pass on sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms are the only method of contraception that can help protect against STIs, which include genital warts, chlamydia and HIV.
Think about what you want
Some people might be nervous about getting back into dating after a relationship breakdown, so make sure you’re really ready. Your past experiences can influence how you feel about dating and you might be worried about rejection or feel guilty at first, so take time to consider what you really want out of a relationship.
Consider your finances
Your financial situation may change if you remarry or start living with a new partner. Make sure you’ve thought about how the two of you are going to manage your money, whether you’re still entitled to any benefits and whether or not this will affect any existing pensions.
If it’s time for a relationship to end
Sometimes relationships break down and separation or divorce may be the only solution. Make sure you get advice about how to sort out your finances. You may also need emotional support – remember that a relationship breakdown can be difficult even if you were the one who instigated it.
This information is available for free from www.independentage.org/relationships