"I'm a gynecologist, and, for me, there was a tremendous void of information to be able to provide people the information they needed to make health care decisions and to be prepared for changes," Lindau said. "With the right information, people might be able to cope better."
For this study, the University of Chicago's National Social Life, Health and Aging Project (NSHAP) researchers interviewed 3,005 U.S. adults (1,550 women and 1,455 men), aged 57 to 85 in their homes.
Three-quarters of those approached agreed to participate and were remarkably forthcoming about their sex lives.
Researchers found that the prevalence of sexual activity did decline with age, with 73 percent of respondents aged 57 to 64 reporting sexual activity, 53 percent among those aged 65 to 74 and 26 percent among those aged 75 to 85.
Women were less likely to be sexually active than men in age groups. More than three-quarters (78 percent) of men aged 75 to 85 had a spouse or other intimate relationship, only 40 percent of women in that age group had a partner.
Women were also more likely to rate sex as "not at all important" (35 percent versus 13 percent of men).
"There do seem some gender disparities," Lindau said. "Men overall are more likely to have partners in later life and are more likely to be sexually active with their partners."
"Older ages really are different for men and women," added Linda Waite, senior author of the paper and the Lucy Flower Professor in Urban Sociology at the University of Chicago. "Men tend to be married until they die, and women tend to spend their final years as widows." In addition, men tend to have younger partners and women older partners, which translates into fewer opportunities for sexual intimacy for women.'/>"/>
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