Joan Price wants to shatter the idea that older adults have lost interest in sex.
They are interested and need more information about how to enjoy it with their changing bodies, she says.
"It is harder for seniors to find sexual information related to them than it is for 10-year-olds," said Price, author of Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex (Seal Press). "I take an activist stand that we do need more sexual information for seniors."
Statistics support Price's contention that older adults have not given up on sex. A comprehensive national survey of adults age 57 to 80 on sexual attitudes, behaviors and problems was conducted in 2005 and 2006 by the National Opinion Research Center along with principal investigators at the University of Chicago. More than 3,000 interviews showed the respondents believe sexuality is an important part of life.
Negative perceptions about older people having sex are changing, Price said, partly because of the large number of aging baby boomers. But there's still a long way to go, she added.
"Thinking only young bodies are sexy is something we've been taught by our youth-oriented culture, and we don't need to keep accepting it," said Price, 68 this month.
AARP relationship expert Pepper Schwartz thinks technology and culture are influencing attitudes about sex as we age.
"Technology has allowed people to look younger longer. New hips and knees. It helps people feel better about themselves," she said. "There's online dating. It's helping people find partners. It's one thing to want to be sexual. It's another thing to find a partner."
Results from the University of Chicago's National Social Life, Health and Aging Project, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed older adults participated well into their 70s and 80s.
The study showed that overall health was much more important than age when it came to sexual activity. As health declined after the early 70s, so did sexual activity. Of those who remained sexually active, nearly half reported a sexual problem.
Lack of desire was a problem for 43 percent of women, and 37 percent of men reported erectile dysfunction. Thirty-eight percent of men and 20 percent of women had discussed their sexual problems with a doctor.