The stereotype of aging women as fragile, completely non-sexual beings whose only recreational interest is sitting around and around arguing with their grandchildren is not just a cruel, sexist trope; as science is increasingly showing, it's also seriously inaccurate. Not only do women not turn into frail old busybodies the minute they turn 60 — they report enjoying sex more than when they were younger, and having quite a lot of it, too.
In the years since the end of The Golden Girls (Blanche Deveraux forever), the notion of women over "a certain age" still being in touch with their sexuality has retreated out of the cultural mainstream, popping up most often as a punchline or held up as an example of something unusual. But science is increasingly revealing that the female libido is not deterred by menopause, wrinkles and the "Best Grandma" mug in the kitchen — and that things continue to be satisfying for a big chunk of the elderly female population.
This information departs drastically from long-held cultural conceptions of older women. Historically, the notion of a woman who had reached an age where she had ceased having periods (and thus couldn't bear children any longer) was a problematic one: older women were more likely to be seen as witches or otherwise "unsafe;" they were more likely to be thought to have malevolent powers; and their existences were often viewed as inconveniences for their families. Because of all of this baggage, the idea of a woman over 60 who revels in her sexuality and enjoys herself is counter to many of our assumptions about sex, womanhood and desirability. But luckily for all of us, older women don't seem to give a sh*t. So, in honor of National Older American Month, let's get into why your grandmother might be having more orgasms than you. Hey, she's earned it!
Why Sexual Satisfaction Is High For Older Women
There are two factors used when researchers assess people's sex lives: frequency and satisfaction. The two fields allow people to paint a fuller picture of their sexual existence: You could be having sex all the time and generally feel a bit "meh" about it, or you could be having virtually none and be perfectly fine with that, thank you very much. In both areas, women over 70, across various populations, have shown that things definitely don't quiet down once you hit retirement age.
A study of 7,000 English pensioners published in 2015, including (for the first time) people over 80, showed a pretty rosy picture: 54 percent of the men and 31 percent of the women reported having sex regularly (more than twice a month). While this obviously doesn't compare to the like-rabbits regularity of newlyweds in their 20s, it's still impressive.
And it's also more frequent than scientists expected. Another study from the University of Chicago in 2007 found that, among Americans, there isn't actually much of a dip in sexual activity between the 50s and the 70s, and a whopping 50 percent of the people aged between 57 and 75 still performed and received oral sex.
So frequency clearly isn't an issue; but what about satisfaction? In that area, the older people are also bossing it. Studies from the early 2000s to the present have reiterated a few things, one of which is that people over 60 are reporting more sexual satisfaction than that generation did in the 1970s, when they were in their 20s and 30s. Part of that is probably that they lived through the sexual revolution and are therefore a bit more open now to sexual pleasure and how to talk about it. A lot of it is also experience, particularly in long-term partnerships where the sexual "language" is long-established. One 2015 study conducted in Sweden found that 60 percent of all women and 70 percent of all men over the age of 70 are highly satisfied with their sex lives.
The interesting thing about this research is that people continued to be satisfied even if they weren't having sex any more; if sex stopped being a priority, a significant proportion of older women were OK with that, too.
Older People Do Suffer Sexual Problems — But They're Similar To The Problems Younger People Deal With
Of course, nobody's expecting old people to be running around hanging from chandeliers 24/7. (Or maybe you do; hey, I don't know your life.) However, the big factor in decreasing sexual frequency among people over 70 isn't what you think. Healthy elderly women are much more likely to be getting busy; the factors that get in the way are to do with health issues, particularly those with knock-on effects on things like arousal and lubrication, and relationship issues. In other words, the same things that can get in the way of sex when you're younger.
Understanding drops in desire in the elderly has yielded some interesting results, too. One in seven women between 65 and 79, according to a study in 2016, experiences hypoactive sexual desire dysfunction, a chronic and distressing lack of sexual arousal or interest. The intriguing thing about this finding was that it's very similar to the statistic in younger women, so there's no apparent uptick in the condition as people get older. However, some scientists think being post-menopausal may increase HSDD, as it's called, so it remains an open question.
Most pressingly, there's a continued problem with STDs in over-60s. More and more elderly women and men have been turning up with positive STD tests over the decades, including a 15 percent rise between 2010 and 2014 in the UK. The big reason for this is likely that, post-menopause, people stop bothering with protection that also serves as a barrier to STIs, because the danger of pregnancy is past. Unfortunately for everybody involved, just because you're not fertile doesn't mean you're any less vulnerable to STIs.
So don't get upset at the thought that you're destined for a sexually frustrated old age; you may well be having more fun then than you are now. Although it would be sensible to remember to keep some condoms around when you go dancing at the bingo hall.