It's time to officially throw out the myth that getting older means having less sex. Maybe that was true once (and that's a big maybe), but in the age of sexual performance enhancement and increasing life expectancies, it couldn't be less true now.
Case in point: a recent University of Chicago study showed that 40% of men ages 75-85 remain sexually active, and 52% of older women (60+) report having regular "good quality" sexual relations.
The study also showed, however, that men seem to retain their sexual appetites longer than women. For example, in the 75-85 bracket, only 17% of women reported staying sexually active, less than half of what men reported. This is probably because Viagra and similar drugs flooded the market over the last 10 years, giving men a sustained burst of libido well into their twilight years, while women still don't have a comparable drug to call their own.
Nevertheless, men and women are both living longer and schtupping longer. At 30, the sexually active life expectancy for women is another 31 years. For men it's another 35 years. But that's assuming just average health. When in good health at age 55, ladies can expect at least another 10 years of sexual activity, and men can expect at least 15.
According to AARP, 85% of men and women age 60+ report having at least one sexual experience (with another person) per week.
That's the good news. The bad is that along with all this hooking up comes increased risk of STDs. Condom use isn't in vogue with those of a certain age because many equate slipping one on with avoiding pregnancy, and since getting pregnant isn't an issue--why sheath? Bad choice. According to the CDC, the percentage of those 50 and older infected with HIV is increasing, accounting for about 20% of overall cases as of 2008.
And syphilis--you did know that you can still get syphilis, right?--likes to stick with those middle-aged and older. Three times as many syphilis cases pop up in that age bracket versus that of those in their late teens and twenties (for whom chlamydia and gonorrhea remain the Godzilla and King Kong of STDs).
The elder set also likes its porn--a lot. So much so that the "elder porn" industry is absolutely booming. An import from Japan (the niche porn epicenter of the known universe) elder porn is targeted to those up in years who still like it hot, or those who just like watching them. According to its Japanese producers, the market for this product has more than doubled in a decade.
Women in these flicks are typically 70 and older, and according to a TIME article on the topic, the older gals retain their popularity far longer than their younger counterparts. After three months or so, younger women in porn movies start losing their appeal (there are, after all, so many of them), but older women acquire a sort of cult status that might live on longer than they do. Elderly male Lotharios have a following as well, like Shigeo Tokuda, the 74-year old star of 350 films with titles like "Forbidden Elderly Care."
But porn and related "products" aside, the point is that old folks are plenty aroused, and they want to stay that way for as long as they can. I'm told that some nursing homes have even designated special "comfort rooms" for their residents to know one another at a level more intimate than bingo will allow.
All of these developments strike me as a net positive. Sexual satisfaction for adults of any age is integral to physical and mental health, so bravo to the elder set for still sowing those oats--and with vigor.