Over the age of 60, 70 percent of women and 92.7 percent of men remain sexually active.
According to Australian sex therapist Alison Rahn, intimate relations are very important for the majority of 60+ couples, most of whom expect to remain sexual for the rest of their lives and to receive support so they may do so.
But many older people, especially in aged care facilities, find it can be difficult and awkward to get that support.
Whether or not people continue to have sex in their later years is more to do with their attitude than any physical changes, says Rhan.
Many tell her their 60s and onward are when they have the most enjoyable sexual experiences of their lives.
“It doesn’t matter whether the body works or doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter whether they look sexy. They’ve let go of all the media images of what it is to be a sexual human being and they just enjoy it for the sake of it.”
Unfortunately the medical profession are poorly equipped to talk to older people about sex, Rahn says.
In their undergraduate studies, most doctors receive very little training about sexuality and little to no training about ageing. Nurses and many psychologists have not received sexuality training either, she says.
There are 181,000 people in residential care in Australia at any one time and most aged care facilities do not enable couples to share a bed or room.
Aged care providers must start considering how their sexually active residents will get the privacy they need, says Rahn.
She is seeing developments, though.
In a move that is extremely unusual in Australia, every resident – partnerered or single – at a new facility in Victoria will get a double bed.”