Youth may be idealized but that doesn't mean older people aren't getting busy - they just don't take pictures on their cell phones and post them to Instagram. A new survey found that people in the early years of marriage have sex more frequently, and sexual activity tapers off over time, but then a rebound occurs after 50 years.
That is comforting, but how many people do you know who have been married 50 years? Right, not many, and that number is going to go down. But more relevant is that if people want more sex, they should stay married, in defiance of modern wisdom. Second marriages lead to less sex than than staying married, though the satisfaction is the same, according to data of 1,656 married adults ages 57-85, using data from the first wave of the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project.
The sociologists who authored "Marital Characteristics and the Sexual Relationships of U.S. Older Adults: An Analysis of National Social Life, Health and Aging Project Data" in Archives of Sexual Behavior say their paper provides "intriguing results" for the fastest growing age group in the United States, the elderly.
One uncertainty that could be the subject of future surveys is the "why" of the findings. While sex becomes less of a novelty over time and frequency tends to diminish, "it may be that the permanency of the relationship contributes to sexual relations picking up a bit at the end," speculates Samuel Stroope, Ph.D., an assistant professor of sociology at Louisiana State University. "Growing old as a couple, with the experience and knowledge that come with that, may play a part. You are able to learn about your partner and build on that over time. You may have a higher level of trust when you feel that your spouse isn't going to go anywhere. The expectation that the relationship will continue may give you more reason to invest in the relationship -- including in sexual aspects of the relationship."
As to why "remarrieds" have less frequent sex than those in first marriages, "it may be that those who have been married in the past may not have as strong of a sense of permanence or lasting investment," Stroope said. "As people age, they tend to be more even-keeled, which may help cut down on marital conflict and facilitate regular sexual activity into advanced age."
Despite stereotypes and "ageism", like television commercials for erectile dysfunction showing that old people want to sit in a bathtub in a forest, the survey joins other papers in affirming that regular sexual activity remains a part of many older adults' lives.