When you picture yourself in your 80s, you likely imagine yourself somewhere comfortable, with pleasant views and a blooming garden for pottering in (we see magnolias and long lunches in our future). Still, it’s pretty unlikely you’re thinking about the sex you’ll be having. But why not? It’s not as if you turn 70 and then all of a sudden, click, a switch goes off, and we lose interest in any sexual pleasure. Should we expect our libido to disappear as we age? And, should we anticipate our bodies not functioning like they do in our younger years?
Keeping your libido in check
Reduced sexual desire can be due to many things, including falling levels of sex hormones in both men and women (as if we need another thing to worry about as we get older), age-related health problems, and side effects of medications.
But while there might be reasons you’re not waking up with a burning passion every morning or reaching over the sheets for your other half at 10 pm (and watching the evening news instead), we definitely shouldn’t underestimate the healing powers of sex – not only will it boost your happy hormones but it’s also been proven to help you feel closer to your partner, so while you might have shared the same bed for the last 60 years, more sex will lead to more intimacy.
Problems with sexual desire can lead to one or both partners feeling disappointed or rejected, and no one wants that. But as you get older, the build-up becomes more important. You can’t just expect to wink at your partner to get them in the mood, so try some of the following tips to make sure you’re both feeling up to it.
A clean body - take a long bath, use your favorite essential oils and carve out some time for self-care
A tidy house - if you’re thinking about the dusting or the laundry, you’re hardly going to be feeling sexy
Having a good chat - nothing is sexier than feeling connected to your partner, so discuss shared experiences, have a debate, or even just talk about the weather
Dressing to feel sexy - while the world does its utmost to shun older women out of the limelight, powerhouses like Jane Fonda continue to prove that age is just a number and sexiness is all about your attitude (and sometimes your outfits)
Investigate hormone replacement therapy - there’s no shame in hormone replacement therapy which can boost estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, all vital for sexual arousal
Let your body talk
80-year-olds might not be able to dance until 5 am anymore, but other, less obvious changes occur in our body as we age that can affect our desire to have sex. As we age, the vagina changes shape slightly, to be narrower and shorter. And it can also take longer for your vagina to naturally lubricate.
But stop right there before you think it’s only women who change with age. Men aren’t the ageless lotharios they might like to think they are – as men age, the chances of erectile dysfunction increase, so achieving an erection can take longer, and maintaining it is also more difficult.
The stats don’t lie
And nor do the hips. ?♀️ So, while all these things are true about health, the body, and aging, lots of older people are continuing to enjoy active sex lives well into their seventies and eighties. Let’s look at the numbers.
According to a study by Manchester University, more than half (54%) of men and almost a third (31%) of women over the age of 70 are still sexually active, with a third of these men and women having frequent sex – meaning at least twice a month.
However, the problems most frequently reported by sexually active women related to becoming sexually aroused (32%) and achieving orgasm (27%), and we hate it to say it, gents, but that’s partly on you. Contrary to popular belief, overall health and issues with partners were the leading causes of decreasing sexual activity and functioning, rather than simply increasing age.
Ok, so what does this mean for us?
Firstly, we shouldn’t assume people stop having sex once they hit 80. While it might be easier to imagine that your mom and your nan both gave up sex the day you were born, that’s likely not the case. So our health services need to be prepared to help octogenarians. Condoms, for example, are often thought of as "a young person thing," but getting older doesn’t protect you from STIs.
Sex is fun, enjoyable, pleasurable, relaxing, interesting, diverting, and all the other good stuff, too. So to be in with the best chance of enjoying sex as you get older, it’s worth forming a pelvic floor habit now. Elvie Trainer is an award-winning Kegel trainer for a stronger pelvic floor, and we know there’s a significant correlation between the number of fast-twitch muscle fiber contractions and sexual function and the orgasm dimension in older women. This means those Kegel exercises aren’t just for new or soon-to-be mothers; they’re for all women of all ages and should be carried on into later life.
Let's sum it up...
The good: you’re likely to be able to enjoy an active sex life well into your 80s, and the bad: your nan might still be having sex. Just try not to think about it.