Scromping after 60

A new study reveals that right now, at this very moment, your grandparents could be having sex.

Published August 23, 2007 7:55PM (EDT)

Speaking of mature sex, a new report published today in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Americans, too, are scromping right up until their 80s.

The study, which Science Daily reports was the first comprehensive national survey of sexual attitudes, behaviors and problems among older American adults, focused on men and women between 57 and 85 years old. It asked people how often they engaged in activities like vaginal intercourse, oral sex and masturbation -- and, according to the Globe and Mail, "The frequency of sexual activity among the study's cohort was similar to that reported among 18-to-59-year-olds in a 1992 National Health and Social Life Survey." Wow.

Some of the study's other results: 73 percent of 57-to-64-year-olds report being sexually active (vs. 53 percent of the 64-to-74-year-olds and 26 percent of the 75-to-85-year-olds). And if you're one of the 26 percent of sexually active 75-to-85-year-olds, chances are you're pretty frisky: 54 percent report having sex at least two or three times a month, and 23 percent report having sex once a week or more. Thirty-one percent of those same people report having had oral sex in the past year.

Unfortunately, it's not all a lovefest -- health problems do get in the way of sex, and fewer older women than men report being sexually active. This is probably because men tend to have younger partners, which means women are more likely to be widowed or to have partners significantly older than they are, with accompanying health problems that cause problems in bed. Also, only 38 percent of men and 22 percent of women said they'd talked to a doctor about sex after age 50 -- which is bad, since health issues (especially the male partner's) were the most commonly reported reason for sexual inactivity.

But that doesn't mean that women don't have any challenges -- 43 percent reported low levels of desire, 39 percent had problems with vaginal lubrication and 34 percent had trouble climaxing. As the Globe and Mail points out, this means there may be a real market for medical interventions that can help older women remain as sexually active as they want to be. After all, whereas 14 percent of men between 57 and 85 years old report taking some sort of medication to improve sexual function, only 1 percent of women do the same. I'd guess that's less because of desire and more because there's no female equivalent to Viagra on the market. As America's over-60 population increases, it'll be interesting to see how that changes.

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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