SEX AND THE AGING
Sexual activity was once considered the exclusive privilege of the young. Women expected to lose their sexual responsiveness after their menopause, and men resigned themselves to the rapid decline of their virility once they reached late middle age. However, modern sex research has shown that these assumptions are false, and that human beings can continue to be sexually active well into their old age. (See "The Male Sexual Response" and "The Female Sexual Response".)
Still, many individuals do experience a gradual weakening of their sexual urges in later years. Sometimes other satisfactions, such as the joys of parenthood and grandparenthood, professional success, or the preoccupation with some hobby can diminish a person's interest in sex. At other times, older people find it undignified or bothersome to look for sexual partners. Some men also feel that the loss of their physical strength signals the end of their sex lives, and thus they simply give up. In short, people often deny themselves sexual pleasures long before it is biologically necessary.
In many respects, this is quite unfortunate. Sexual intercourse can help older people to preserve their self-esteem and confidence. It can give them a sense of well-being, renew their interest in life, and thus prevent them from aging prematurely. A certain lack of strength and the infirmities of age do not have to be an obstacle to sexual satisfaction. Moreover, specific physical problems can often be alleviated by hormone replacement and other therapeutic measures.
The reasons that keep older men and women from remaining sexually active are mostly psychological. However, it is almost certain that the various modern movements toward sexual liberation will sooner or later also affect the aging and allow them to develop new sexual attitudes. (See also "The Sexually Oppressed".)