LIFESTYLE

Elderly People 'Still Enjoy Active Sex Lives', So Why Is Sex Over 70 Such A Taboo?

29/01/2015 13:02 GMT | Updated 29/01/2015 13:59 GMT

This week the first major study of sexual health in the 'over 70s' found that our elderly counterparts are still very much enjoying an active sex life.

More than 7,000 people took part in the study, which revealed that just over half of men (54%) and almost a third of women (31%) aged over 70 are still sexually active. A third of these have "frequent" sex at least twice a month.

While it's great to hear that the elderly are enjoying the biological perks of life, there are still many people who would freak out about the thought of older people having sex. Which leads us to ask the question: why?

old couple love

Telling HuffPost UK Lifestyle about why she thinks sex and the elderly is such a taboo subject, sex and relationship expert Tracey Cox says: "I think people react with distaste on two levels. Firstly, it subconsciously reminds of us our parents - and no-one wants to think about their parents having sex.

"Secondly, it's contrary to society's adoration of youth. We equate youth with beauty and old age with ugliness. So people having sex when they're old conjures up images we're not used to seeing."

She adds that when society does see people having sex, it's usually "young, slim people" on TV or in film.

"Even porn focuses on the young and slim and there's at least a nod given to trying to present things in a flattering light," she adds.

Sex and relationship therapist, Sarah Berry also believes that the media is to blame as it is "forever patronising people over 70 - painting them all as cute and sexless".

"In reality, some people choose to be sexual and some don't. It's great to see this recognised," she adds.

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But there could also be a scientific explanation as to why younger adults squirm at the thought of older people having sex.

Science writer, journalist and evolutionary biologist Mairi Macleod believes that a lot of younger people don't see the elderly as "viable sexual partners".

"Our mate preferences have evolved to make us sexually attracted to people who are good for reproduction," reveals Macleod.

"For women then, those in their 20s and early 30s will be most attractive, and even for men relative youth is important since men lose fertility with advanced age. This means that young people don’t really see the elderly as viable sexual partners."

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But, adds Macleod: "There are plenty of good reasons for older people to enjoy sex, including staying emotionally and physically fit."

Relationships expert Tracey Cox concludes: "I think it's fantastic that people in their 80s are having great sex. It's a different type of sex which is more focused on foreplay, oral sex, touching and stroking than penetration.

"And in many ways, it's more satisfying - especially for women!"

The original piece of research was conducted for the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), led by Dr David Lee, an Age UK Research Fellow at The University of Manchester's School of Social Sciences.