Sexual desire doesn’t necessarily wane with age

Question: Does sexual fulfillment decrease as we get older? My spouse and I are in our 60s, and I’m concerned normal aging issues might have negative implications for our relationship in the bedroom.

Jim: Many people seem to believe that libido inevitably fades with age, and that elderly couples who still are interested in sex are abnormal. This idea is largely mythical. In actuality, sexual desire depends more on a state of mind and emotional attitudes than on one’s chronological age.

Generally, it’s normal to have an ongoing interest in sex throughout one’s adult life. Like the young, older people experience the full range of human feelings and emotions. They also need love and affection – sometimes in large amounts. Researchers have shown that normal interest in and capacity for sex continues into the 80s. It may in some cases decrease in intensity because of specific problems with self-image, such as a feeling that one is no longer attractive, but this is not always true. It can also be affected, of course, by illness, aches and pains, complications of surgical procedures or certain other physical problems that accompany the aging process.

It’s important to bear in mind that sexual intimacy in marriage is a lifelong process. Different forms of expression may be appropriate at different phases of the relationship. Where pain or physical incapacity has limited certain types of sexual activity, it’s worth remembering that sexual intercourse per se is not necessarily the only option for physical intimacy. Touch, physical closeness, skin-to-skin contact, even intimate conversation can be extremely satisfying in the absence of other forms of sexual pleasure. At every stage of life, healthy attitudes toward marital sex should be characterized by candor, vulnerability, flexibility and willingness to communicate.

Please call one of our licensed therapists at (855) 771-4357 if we can help further.

Jim Daly is an author, president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program.