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Elderly people shun sexual health advice, survey reveals

Many over 65s still enjoy sex but don't talk about it with partners or caregivers

Mark Gould

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Over a quarter of people over 65 felt they couldn’t talk to their partner about sex, and over two thirds (69%) have never sought sexual health advice, according to an Age UK poll.

Age UK says the online poll of over 2,000 people revealed that many people over 65 spoke openly about attitudes to sex and ageing, revealing a desire to remain sexually active – but a lack understanding about where to go for advice.

The charity says it commissioned the poll to highlight the role of sex and sexual health in later life, helping to dispel some of the stereotypes and taboos around older people and sexual relationships.

With nearly a quarter (24%) of those polled stating that age hasn’t affected their sex lives, the survey shows that sex remains important, regardless of age.

Almost two thirds (62%) said that they are currently enjoying a fulfilling sex life. One in eight (12%) said they would like to try new things with their partner and just under one in five (18%) wanted to be more sexually active. Some 8% were keen to embark on a new sexual relationship.

Despite this desire for a fulfilling sex life in later life, the survey revealed that many of the older generation find it difficult to talk to partners or health workers about sex.

Over a quarter (28%) feel they can’t talk to their partner, with women finding it harder to disclose their feelings than men. Reasons behind the silence included embarrassment and not knowing how to initiate the conversation.

While clinicians have been aware of a rise in the number of STIs among over 45s for some years, 69% in the survey revealed that they had never sought any type of sexual health advice. The findings also revealed:

  • Three quarters (76%) of over-65s do not currently seek sexual health advice.
  • Just one in seven (14%) have sought sexual advice in the last 20 years.
  • Almost half (46%) feel they don’t need any sexual health advice, rising to 54% of women.  

The poll found that the most likely source of sexual health information is a nurse or doctor, with 17% of those polled turning to their healthcare professional for help.

Commenting on the survey, Lucy Harmer, Head of Information and Advice at Age UK, said: “Our research shows that having a healthy sex life is important to us regardless of our age. However, we also found that many older people may find it hard to speak up about sex, be it to their partner, friends or healthcare professionals.

“Age UK is keen to increase awareness of the importance of seeking out information and advice on sex - whatever your age. Some people’s knowledge will be based on guidance received when they were first sexually active a number of years ago - and it’s vital that those in later life have access to relevant, up-to-date information.”

Age UK offers advice to people in later life, their friends, family and carers. People can contact Age UK Advice free on 0800 169 65 65 to find out more about maintaining a healthy sex life, including information on how to speak to people about sex, staying safe and making sex more comfortable as we age.

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