Sex in Midlife: A 21st Century Perspective

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Not long ago, it was a common belief that sexual desire automatically dropped off in midlife; that is was normal to lose the ability to have intercourse. We now know this not to be true. It is quite possible--and healthy--to continue to have sex well in

As many of us are aware, “middle age” doesn’t mean what it used to.

There was a time not long ago when middle age meant reaching 40 or 50 years of age and feeling as though the best years of life had already come and gone.  But attitudes have changed. 

People are taking more precautions to live longer, healthier lives and remaining active well into their later years.  In fact, for a growing number of people, reaching their 90th birthday is a reasonable expectation.  In short, 60 is the new 40!  So, what does this mean for the middle-aged and sex?

Okay, you’ve reached middle age.  Your children are grown and probably on their own by now.  You no longer worry as much about pregnancy (if at all) or having to use contraception, so a new dimension of spontaneity is possible for you and your partner. 

Your years have given you a sense of confidence and ease you didn’t have in younger days, you know what you enjoy and how to achieve it, and if you’re like most, you’re even willing to experiment into areas of sex you didn’t seem to interest you before.  So, what else is there to know?  Well, maybe what to expect from here on out.

Thanks to studies like the Kinsey Report, Hite Report, and those of Masters and Johnson and the Mayo Clinic, we now know decisively that despite what we were once lead to believe, women remain interested in sex long after they lose the ability to have children, and the majority of men actually experience an increase in libido in midlife--not a decrease. Our sexual urges do not simply shut off just because we’ve reached a certain age!

We now understand that sex is much more than a biological urge to reproduce.  In fact, most of us never lose the need for both emotional and physical intimacy.  And while sexuality can certainly be expressed even through a simple caress, the underlying need for the fulfillment that can only be achieved through sexual intercourse is much stronger in middle age than we ever used to believe.  But can the body deliver what the mind and libido desires?

Despite the best laid plans, physical limitations and health issues inevitably become a factor of sexual activity for middle-aged couples. You’ve cut out red meat and added more fruits and vegetables to your diet.  You’re getting out and walking regularly.  You’ve learned how to reduce stress and are taking supplements.  But still, health issues arise.

Arthritis, heart disease, erectile dysfunction, diabetes, vaginal dryness, pulmonary issues, incontinence--these complaints can and do arise, rearing their intrusive heads at the least convenient times.  (Not to mention the need for various surgeries that have shown you that your body isn’t what it once was.) But while these changes can effect our self-esteem and sense of self worth, they really needn’t.  We simply need to remind ourselves that change is normal and something everybody experiences.  Change is a constant of life that begins at birth and will predictably follow us to our final day.  There should be an unspoken comfort in knowing that.

Providing we are willing to take the steps necessary to maintain a sexually fulfilling relationship, change needn’t be an issue an all.  And rarely are these changes cause enough to discontinue intimacy.  Even though sex in middle age may require a little more precaution and adaptability, there’s no question but that it’s ultimately worth it.  Statistics show that sexually-active couples (and individuals) are happier, more content, have fewer physical ailments, and ultimately, live longer.  And as we are finally coming to understand, sex at any age is an almost magical curative for countless ailments of the body, mind, and spirit.

There’s no denying that the challenges of maintaining an active sex life as we age can sometimes seen daunting.  Issues arise.  And it’s only natural that we may have questions regarding the use of new products like Viagra, therapies like hormone replacement, or concerns about how to deal with the after-effects of heart attack, stroke, or fading memory.  But be assured that as long as we keep an open line of communication with our partner, our physician, as well as with ourselves, no issue is insurmountable, no question unanswerable.  There is rarely a condition that will prevent us from continuing to have sex just as long as we desire it--and well past “middle age.”


Mature Lifestyles Magazine

Mature Resources Magazine

Sex and Human Loving, Masters and Johnson

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education/Sex

Images via:

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James R. Coffey
Posted on Nov 3, 2010
Ileen Zovluck
Posted on Nov 3, 2010