1/5 How does sex change as we age?

Part 1 of our ultimate guide on how to have the best sex possible, from your 20s to your 70s and beyond.

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how does sex change as we age

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Part 1 of our ultimate guide on how to have the best sex possible, from your 20s to your 70s and beyond. We want to arm readers with practical advice that they can implement to have a satisfying and healthy sex life regardless of their age. 

How does sex change as we age?

What is the most significant difference between sex in your 20s compared to sex in your 70s?

It is hard to give any answer that will hold true for all of us, because what we aspire to and can achieve sexually at any given age is as individual as our fingerprint.  Of course, there are common themes that hold true for most of us: but our sexual identities and desires are unique to us, as is the way they alter throughout our lives. 

Our sexual selves are forged from our upbringing, the messages we received from the media and those around us about sex, the specifics of the sociocultural and religious backdrop to our childhoods, and – of course – from our unique lived experiences.  Positive or negative, these influences set the stage from which our unique desires are born, and also impact how we evaluate our experiences in comparison to our perceived ideal. We carry on honing and shaping our views as we progress through our lives, which means that what we want, and can play out sexually, tends to remain somewhat fluid and changeable.

To consider the impact of ageing on sex, we need to understand that our sexual function is a biopsychosocial issue. This means that our experience of sex is not just the result of how our body works, or affected by how it changes over time.

It is also impacted by our minds and worlds – and how these change as we age may, in fact be the most impactful thing of all in terms of our experience of sex.

Far from being the sole preserve of the elderly, sexual function issues can affect almost all of us at any stage of our lives. The figures from the last National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL 3) showed that 46% of 16-24 year olds reported one sexual problem lasting more than three months in the last year. This figure increased to 49% in those aged 25-44, 52% for those aged 45-54, 61% aged 55-64 and 56 % for 65-74 year olds. Only a very small proportion (14% of men, and 15% of women) admitted to having sought help for their issue.

Does getting older mean sex inevitably gets worse? Not necessarily. Although problems with our bodies tend to be more common as we age than they are during our 20s, the research suggests that sexual satisfaction does not necessarily fall as we get older. And it may reassure you to know that although we may consider sexual variety to be the preserve of the young and adventurous, the NATSAL reminds us that older adults are far from dead from the waist down. Yes, the variety of sexual activity does tend to decrease with the decades – but older adults are far from prudish: NATSAL 3 tells us 1 in 5 women between 65-74 have given or received oral sex in the past year – and that 1 in 25 of them have had anal sex (by way of comparison, I like to point out that only 1 in 10 adults describe themselves as vegetarian).

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