Stereotypically, it is said that with older age you are to become less sexually active and less attracted to relationship and sexual activity. In one sense this is true when it comes to our bodies no longer being able to pro create in which the need is no longer needed, but this does not mean the average human lacks sexual desires. Using studies that cover sexual activity, and relationship attitude in later life, I will explain how the stereotype on sexual pursuit is not completely correct and how though the stereotype may not be off that sexual desire decreased, it is not for reasons of being a normal part of aging, but of many other factors.
In the studies there is a common trend of intimacy increase as well as a higher drive to be in an intimate relationship. Alongside that it is also seen in many of the studies that pursuing later life relations can be prejudged on experiences, beliefs and life situations. An example of this is that those who have more background in religious areas will be more likely not to partake in sexual activities as those who have had more sexual experiences will be more likely in accepting later life intimacy. (Allen 2009) This shows that its not usually a normal cycle in life that cause a decrease in sexual or relational intimacy but more based off of an individuals experiences that can skew where intimacy lies in someone’s later life.
Relationships in later life are usually portrayed in media as either a romantic, intimate relationship (i.e. The intern, That 70’s show) or as a long marital relationship with constant bickering (i.e. Everybody love Raymond.) This is brought up because in a few studies it shows that some relationships as well and long time marital partners experience physical and emotional intimacy that keeps them going. Something that was noted in the study done by Mader (2015) was that a common theme was based around relationship or the desire for one, & that that the loss of one’s partner caused a decrease in sexual frequency while increasing loneliness at the same time.
It seems to be a normal trend that after loss that many became lonely not wanting to go right back into an intimate relationship with someone new but more of grieve and move away from that desire. This is not the only factor that has stopped many in pursuing a relationship though. People had negative outlooks on pursuing relationships or sexual activity (generally toward woman) in later life due to physical attraction. (Allen 2009) Though this is a factor, it is not stopping others since there is still a handful of those who have had more intimate relations in their earlier years who are more willing to pursue more intimacy specifically. (Allen 2009). This can help show that experience builds on the thought of if one is to become more active in a late intimate situation.
The stereotype builds off of what is depicted in media such as TV shows and movies where we see older individuals as grumpy, lazy, or needing care providers because they don’t have a need to be with others or find a person to pursue their lives with. According to Levaro (2012), many of those partaking in dating or sexual activity, if not in a long marital relationship, have been seen using more online sites to pursue an intimate relationship and find a partner. This helps us see that it isn’t as common as thought that once at an older age, if not in a relationship already, a person would give up that intimate desire to be with another partner. In the study done by Freeman (2014) it is seen that younger adults tend to believe that it close to impossible to be sexually active because with older age you become more frail or become more prone to injuries if you became more sexually active. This misconception is due to what is generally thought of to be the norm of activity levels in older age. Within the same study, Half the students that were studied believed erectile dysfunction was a normal part of aging which strained them on the idea of sexual activity in later life. (Freeman 2014) This could be why many may not pursue intimacy straight away in later years in fear of what may have been thought of before, but there are also studies that show that other reasons for lack of sexual intimacy can be due to past health issues such complicated childbirth, hysterectomies and reproductive cancer which have lead to caused sexual problems. (Mader 2015) Though these do point more negative to the side of intimacy in later life it also shows that people aren’t sexually inactive cause of age, but for other reasons from past events.
When it came to talking to both older men and women on their current sexual lives it was interesting to read how open both genders were on it. Going off of the study by Levaro (2012) it was shown that almost all the older men were in an intimate relationship compared to women which only had four participants who were at the time intimate. Though this shows that men seem to be more intimate, Levaro (2012) explains earlier in the study that with on average women living longer there tends to be an imbalance of men to women which will cause there to be more men have relations over the women. Personally, I would believe that women would be in more intimate relationships because it always depicted in media that woman find these extravagant relationships while men tend to be more bitter and not in relationships. (i.e. Last Vegas, King of Queens etc.) When asked to describe sexual live women tended to be more detailed on the action while avoiding the part of first encounters while men would explain sexual details and initiating relations with women they had met online. (Levaro 2012) This is interesting because I personally don’t understand why women would be less forward on their first encounters. This could be based on maybe personal embarrassment of being uncomfortable with sharing those details from their relationships.
When it comes to women specifically, I found that in Allen’s (2009) study men who expressed more positive attitude toward later life sexual activity accepted women’s sexual desire more despite health than those with a negative attitude towards it. It is also becoming in most of the studies that though attitude is a key factor so is they general physical appearance. Men were more prevalent to have body issues with older age with strayed them from pursuing in sexual activity; women did show correlation in body image, but it was not as prevalent as the men were. (Madar 2015) This is interesting in the sense that in earlier years, women are seen more with having body issues, but as one gets into their later years it flip flops on the situation where men become more concerned with how they are looking.
Conclusion. After going through all the articles, the stereotype that as you age you become sexually inactive can be seen in a new light. There is a decrease in some case, that is understandable, but it is not cause of social norms. Decline is of personal belief, loss, experiences, etc. Along with that there is also an increase in intimacy for many of those who are active. All the studies show that it is possible to be Sexually Active and in relationships as many participants in the studies were shown being very intimate by knowing their partner and trying to please each other more. Most beliefs on lack of intimacy in later years were molded as young adults had more of an idea of intimacy not being prevalent in older age, this could be due to many outside sources from media to readings to family values. All around whether on the side of intimacy in later life or not, participants did seem to be happy or having positive attitudes if they were in intimate relationships while those who were not were seen to be lonely. Not agreeing nor disproving the stereotype, I believe that with the studies shown sexual intimacy is not lacking in later years but is not a common thing for all in their older age. Something that could help build on the idea is further studies to test how many intimate relationships occur in later years would help this idea greatly though so there can be more thorough outlook on the subject.
Allen, R. S., Petro, K. N., & Phillips, L. L. (2009). Factors influencing young adults’ attitudes and knowledge of late-life sexuality among older women. Aging & Mental Health, 13(2), 238-245. doi:10.1080/13607860802342243
Freeman, S., Sousa, S., & Neufeld, E. (2014). Sexuality in later life: Examining beliefs and perceptions of undergraduate students. Gerontology & Geriatrics Education, 35(2), 200-213. doi:10.1080/02701960.2013.830114
Levaro, E. B. (2012). Theorizing age and gender in the pursuit of love in late life. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A, 73, 1884.
Mader, A. L. (2015). Older adult experiences of their sexuality: A phenomenological inquiry. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A, 76,