US Elderly Said To Thrive
On Sex Says Survey


WASHINGTON (AFP) - Sex is an important and satisfying element in the lives of a majority of middle-aged and senior Americans, according to a broad new study sponsored by American Association of Retired Persons, the national organization for the elderly.
The report, released Tuesday, said that more than half of those polled were extremely or somewhat satisfied with their sex lives.
Cutting against the assumptions of America's "youth culture," the number of people viewing their partners as romantic or physically attractive did not decline with age, according to the study.
Out of 10 men aged 45 to 59, six gave their partners the highest possible ratings for being "physically attractive." By age 75, 64 percent of men still gave this same high rating to their partners.
Among women, 52 percent in their 40s and 50s gave their partners the highest possible rating, while 57 percent of those 75 and older gave the same response.
Some 29 percent of the women ages 45 to 59 said their partners were romantic, and that jumped to 53 percent for those 75 and older. Among men, 37 percent of those in the younger group and 42 percent of those 75 and older called their partners romantic.
"What we found out with this study is that yes, there is a sex life after 45 and that the graying of the boomer generation is having an enormous impact on how society thinks, feels and acts in the bedroom," said Hugh Delehanty, editor of Modern Maturity magazine, which sponsored the study.
The survey revealed a generation gap in sexual attitudes between midlife women - those 45 to 59 - and women over 75.
Only 36 percent of the younger group think "people should not have a sexual relationship if they are not married," while 66 percent of women 75 and older believe such relationships are wrong.
And older women are far less likely to be sexually active than older men. Only 21 percent of women 75 and older have partners, compared with 58 percent of men in the same age group.
Co-author Steve Brody of the book "Renew Your Marriage at Midlife" says studies like this are increasingly important because they help break down stereotypes.
"No action (no sex) often follows belief," he said. "People are then more likely to step into an asexual relationship when they become older. Young people have a tendency of believing their parents are not having sex, when in fact we are going at it."
When it comes to sexual activity, the study indicates, surprisingly, that Viagra and other treatments designed to enhance sexual performance haven't changed life that much. Among men, 33 percent reported having sex once a week or more after using the drug or treatment, compared with 25 percent reporting the same frequency of sexual intercourse before treatment.
But about 60 percent of those using Viagra and other treatments said their satisfaction with their sex lives was enhanced.
More than 6 in 10 men age 45 to 59 and women age 45 to 54 report they engage in sexual intercourse once a week or more, as do more than 1 in 4 of those 75 and older.
According to the study, relationships are even more important than sexual activity for most partners, regardless of age. Some 92 percent of men and 87 percent of women say a good relationship with a spouse or partner is important to their quality of life.
Reported sexual activity declines with age for both men and women, as health declines and many lose their partners.
Declining health also affects sexual activity and sexual satisfaction as people age, and the survey shows that substantial minorities are not being treated for some ailments that may be affecting their sex lives. More than half of those who report no major disease or depression say they engage in sexual intercourse at least once a week, compared with around 3 in 10 of those with depression or some other major disease.