The country and western song that declares “older women are beautiful lovers” finds support in a new study showing sexual satisfaction in women increases with age.
At the same time, researchers discover aging women not engaging in sex are also satisfied with their sex lives. People in the study appeared satisfied with their sex life no matter how much or how little they were engaged in sexual activity.
In a study of older women, investigators discovered a majority of study participants report frequent arousal and orgasm that continue into old age, despite low sexual desire.
Researchers evaluated sexual activity and satisfaction as reported by 806 older women who are part of a group or cohort of women whose health has been tracked for medical research for 40 years.
The study measured the prevalence of current sexual activity; the characteristics associated with sexual activity including demographics, health, and hormone use; frequency of arousal, lubrication, orgasm, and pain during sexual intercourse; and sexual desire and satisfaction in older women.
Sixty-three percent of study participants were postmenopausal with a median age of 67. Half the respondents who reported having a partner had been sexually active in the last month.
Researchers discovered the likelihood of sexual activity declined with increasing age. But more than two-thirds of the sexually active women reported that they achieve orgasm most of the time or always. Interestingly, the youngest and oldest women in the study reported the highest frequency of orgasm satisfaction.
Among the study cohort, 40 percent of all women stated that they never or almost never felt sexual desire, and one third of the sexually active women reported low sexual desire.
Lead investigator Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, M.D., noted:
“Despite a correlation between sexual desire and other sexual function domains, only 1 in 5 sexually active women reported high sexual desire. Approximately half of the women aged 80 years or more reported arousal, lubrication, and orgasm most of the time, but rarely reported sexual desire. In contrast with traditional linear model in which desire precedes sex, these results suggest that women engage in sexual activity for multiple reasons, which may include affirmation or sustenance of a relationship.”
Although the findings may appear ambiguous, researchers clarify that regardless of partner status or sexual activity, 61 percent of all women in this cohort were satisfied with their overall sex life.
Investigators say that among the study participants, the percentage of sexually satisfied women actually increased with age, with approximately half of the women over 80 years old reporting sexual satisfaction almost always or always.
This finding is contrary to traditional belief that low sexual satisfaction accompanies older age. Not only were the oldest women in this study the most satisfied overall, those who were recently sexually active experienced orgasm satisfaction rates similar to the youngest participants.
“In this study, sexual activity was not always necessary for sexual satisfaction. Those who were not sexually active may have achieved sexual satisfaction through touching, caressing, or other intimacies developed over the course of a long relationship,” said first author Susan Trompeter, M.D.
“Emotional and physical closeness to the partner may be more important than experiencing orgasm. A more positive approach to female sexual health focusing on sexual satisfaction may be more beneficial to women than a focus limited to female sexual activity or dysfunction,” she said.
The study appears in the January issue of the American Journal of Medicine.