New research dispels sex myths about older people

Retirement offers us more time to do the things we love and, if recent research is anything to go by, more time for love, too.

The research, conducted by a leading manufacturer of innovative adult products, puts paid to the belief that the desire for intimacy diminishes in old age.

The We-Vibe survey reveals that 35 per cent of Australians believe the desire for sex decreases with age. However, 44 per cent of respondents aged 50 and over rate their sex lives a seven or more on a scale of 10.

A 2021 ABC Australia Talks report concurs, showing that Australians aged over 50 are having more sex than their younger counterparts.

In that survey, only 15 per cent of Australians over 50 say they never have sex, compared with 40 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds.

In contrast, in the YourLifeChoices Older Australians Wellbeing Index 2020-21, a poor sex life was rated as having a negative impact on older Australians’ physical health, and almost 70 per cent of about 7200 respondents rated their sex life as poor or very poor.

Read: Older Australians Wellbeing Index dispels myths about over-50s

The We-Vibe survey challenges perceptions that older people are no longer sexually active.

“We can’t talk about older people’s lust and preferences without talking to them,” says We-Vibe spokesperson Johanna Rief.

“Love and lust don’t retire at a certain age, so we want to encourage people to talk about it and find new ways to experience their sexuality without shame.”

Author and ageless sexuality advocate Joan Price, sex therapists and doctors also dispel the most widespread prejudices and false assumptions about sexuality in old age. Their opinions and suggestions have been published in a series of videos on

They discuss how sex can change with age and how ageing presents an opportunity to break away from the classic definition of “sex = penetrative sex” and try something new.

“Let go of what sex used to be for you because we are not going back to being 20,” says Ms Price.

“Make it a journey of exploration to find out what works for you now. Find out what brings you great delight, arousal and orgasms at your age right now.”

Read: Can orgasms extend your life?

The We-Vibe survey found that 14 per cent of respondents believe sex becomes more relaxed with age because participants know their bodies better. Sharing a bed with the same partner for a very long time has its advantages.

Respondents point out that appearance no longer plays a major role in sex and almost all reported that sex is more pleasurable and informal since they no longer worry so much about their appearance.

“What you might think is attractive to other people is not necessarily what is attractive to older people,” says one participant, Peter.

Many said they wished they had had this self-confidence at a younger age.

They also claimed that, with increasing age, they know their own body and their own wishes better and can better communicate these wishes to a partner.

Communication is considered the key to a good relationship and to good sex, with respondents saying listening to and granting their partners’ wishes is just as important as expressing their own wishes.

Read: Sex secrets of long-term couples

Sexual health experts reiterate how sex changes over time. While desire for sex may decrease and it may take longer to become aroused or the reactions to certain stimuli may change, the body still reacts to touch and this is key to desire and lust at any age.

“Sexuality in old age should not be ignored, because in addition to the good feeling, the health benefits also outweigh the disadvantages,” says We-Vibe.

“Among other things, sex improves your mood, helps against depressive moods, strengthens the immune system and can contribute to pain relief.

And, according to Ms Price: “The frequency may go down, but the quality can go up. It’s not about how often we have sex, but more about the quality of sex older adults have and, most importantly, how much pleasure they get from having sex.”

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.