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09/08/2015 07:35 am ET

6 Questions You Were Afraid To Ask About Older People Having Sex

Quit squirming and listen up: Older people are doing it every day. Now, deal.
Jan Nordstrom via Getty Images

1. Do they, you know, really do it?

Yes, they really do it. How are we so certain? Well, for one, they aren't doing it very safely. The STD rate in older adults is rising, says the Centers for Disease Control. The number of new HIV infections is growing faster among people who are over 50 than those under 40.  

2. Why aren't they practicing safe sex, like we were taught to?

Many seniors who hit the dating scene after a long marriage simply aren't prepared. They came of age at a time when the main concern was avoiding unwanted pregnancies. Condoms were seen strictly as contraceptives, and once you got past menopause, nobody worried about getting pregnant. Today’s seniors never got the talks about how you could actually die from sexually transmitted diseases. And clearly they aren't doing such a great job of learning about them now.

The other shoe to drop comes from the foot of medical professionals. They make ageist assumptions about older patients' sex drive and assume they all have flaccid penises and dead-on-arrival libidos. These pervasive myths create a barrier and limit older adults’ access to information on how to have sex safely, says Senior Planet.

At least "Scrubs'" Dr. Cox got it right.

 

3. What's the oldest you can be and still have sex?

As disturbing as you might find the thought of your parents or grandparents having sex, the truth is they’re still human beings with human-being urges. Thanks to medical advances, people are living longer and healthier. You aren't going to find Grandpa spending his twilight years hunched over a TV tray eating a microwaved meal; he's out there having fun.

4. Do body parts still function the same?
 
More or less, yes. As expected, people have less sex as they got older — a fact largely attributed to each individual's overall health. Men struggled to achieve an erection roughly 39 percent of the time; women said they lacked a sufficient sex drive 32 percent of the time and couldn't reach orgasm 27 percent of the time, according to the Sexual Health and Well-Being Among Older Men and Women in England study.

Some things, however, simply never change. The same study found that men, on average, cared more about their sexual performance than women did and also reported greater dissatisfaction with their sex lives than women. As women aged, their dissatisfaction rates actually tended to decrease, said the study. The sex may have actually gotten better for them -- or maybe it just got less important.

5. Don't most older people just cuddle and call it sex?

Don't knock cuddling! Affection at any age is important. Roughly 31 percent of men and 20 percent of women reported kissing and petting on a regular basis, the British study found. While mild public displays of affection are pretty much where our assumptions about older intimacy begin and end, in reality older people are not just stopping at second base. In other words, cuddling is great and so is having sex. Older people don't mistake the two; do you?

6. Aw, c'mon. Old-age sex is funny, isn't it?

Actually, it's pretty serious business. It deserves to not be filtered through a lens of humor or disgust. We can start by not demeaning it. Older couples dancing intimately  aren't "cute." Save the "cute" for babies and puppies.

And there you have it. Remember, hope springs eternal.

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