At 64 years old, Juan López (fictitious name to protect his identity) recognizes that he does not have as active a sexuality as he did in his youth. A moment later he clarifies that he doesn’t really need that intensity either. “I have experienced changes in potency and desire and have also adapted to my partner’s lower libido. Nowadays we develop more emotional and contact encounters: hugs, kisses, gestures of affection. We have less sexual relations, but they are enough, because we have many other things that fill the relationship and, therefore, we do not need sex as much to feel good together,” says Juan.

Her reflection is seconded by Carmen Villarejo (not her real name), 69 years old, with three children behind her and a “quite good” sexual life as a couple in which menopause marked a before and after. “I had discomfort and no one gave me any information. Over time I ended up lowering my level of sexual activity, until a younger friend told me about some treatments and lubricants. That improved my appetite a lot,” she points out. Although today her partner is recovering from cancer, which has diminished her sex life, she feels lucky because they are “one of those rare couples” who have been able to talk openly about the subject and inform themselves: “many friends do not have relationships or have not enjoyed of an orgasm in your life.”

According to Elisa Múgica, psychologist, co-director of the Vitae Psicología Center of Zaragoza and scriptwriter of the documentary Couples Therapy (directed by Gaizka Urresti), the body of men and women changes at different stages of life due to the impact of stress, of medical treatments, menopause, the development of diseases and the aging processes. “For example, men over the age of 50 will lose consistency in their erections and if sexuality is coital they will suffer an imbalance in their sexual rhythm or desire, and even in the image of their masculinity. Women already in menopause are going to lose elasticity in the tissues, lubrication and libido may decrease, purely associated with hormonal processes,” she reflects.

In that sense, according to the expert, if throughout life a sex based on skin contact, seduction, gaze and erotic pleasure has developed – rather than focused solely on penetration – “the person or The couple will be able to adapt better to these changes since having a harmonious sexual development helps in these transformations and duels.”

An opinion shared by Janire Achicallende Porturas, a psychologist at IMQ Igurco, who believes that if the vision of emotional-sexual relationships were changed towards a model in which people’s satisfaction was associated with more aspects in addition to the coitocentric and reproductive model, “We would be promoting greater well-being towards the emotional-sexual dimension and minimizing negative emotions towards it, such as frustration and the feeling of inability to experience functional, cognitive, physical and social changes.”

In this change of model, the expert considers it essential to educate and attend to people’s sexuality from childhood, in order to adapt the range of sexuality to the stage of aging, “giving prominence to sexual activities such as kisses, caresses, “, the looks, the hugs, the masturbation, the moments of intimacy and complicity.”

For Juan, maintaining an active sexual life helps him “be better and more united” with his partner. Carmen’s sexuality has brought her – and continues to bring her – “well-being” with her body.

According to a study published in 2017 by Trinity College Dublin, people who maintain an active sexual life have a more positive perception of their own age and are less likely to feel old, pay less attention to the negative consequences of the passage of time, They see themselves as healthier and have fewer signs of depression. Other studies have also linked an active sexual life in older people with, among other benefits, better cognitive function, a reduction in insomnia symptoms, a lower probability of suffering from cardiovascular problems – especially in women – or a reduction of prostate cancer risk.

“The release of endorphins during sex generates general well-being. An active sexual life improves self-esteem and if the person is in a relationship, it benefits the relationship and reinforces loving bonds. Sex, in short, is one of the healthiest and cheapest exercises that can be done in old age, since it improves many markers of physical and emotional health. But, yes, expectations must be adapted to that life stage and the possibilities of each person at that moment,” says Elisa Múgica.

Despite all these benefits proven by scientific evidence, however, only 62.3% of elderly Spanish men and 37.4% of Spanish women are sexually active, according to data from a study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. Partner illness (23%), lack of interest (21%) and widowhood (23%) are the most common reasons for sexual inactivity.

However, as Múgica points out, pointing to “the lack of interest”, sexual desire “can be worked on” as one works on improving one’s physical condition, starting, of course, from real expectations associated with the vital moment one is going through. In this sense, the psychologist points out that many women resent physical changes in their sexuality (weight gain, stretch marks, sagging skin), because these changes generate insecurity and inhibit them from maintaining an active sexuality.

Added to this, he adds, is the fact that a significant part of the female population experiences gynecological problems associated with aging, which cause sex to become painful during intercourse, urinary tract infections increase, and other types of discomfort are experienced. general like itching. “The lack of information and dialogue about these aspects means that they are not treated sufficiently medically and that women withdraw from a sexuality that can be unpleasant. Many times, in addition, their partners are not aware of these aspects and simply associate the lack of appetite with menopause and new sexual formulas that are very satisfactory at this stage of life and that could increase desire are not explored,” she argues.

That the two personal testimonies that are part of this report have asked to protect their identity reflects an immovable reality: the taboo that surrounds sexuality, also among older people. “I think sexuality continues to be viewed poorly among older people. Not so much my age, we are better preserved than before and we do more sports, but it seems that older people cannot have sexual desires or sexual behaviors,” admits Carmen Villarejo.

“Currently, there are still many prejudices, beliefs and negative stereotypes related to the emotional-sexual relationships of older people due to the fact that sexuality and emotional-sexual relationships are associated with reproduction, genitality and the coitocentric model,” agrees Janire Achicallende, who considers that one of the biggest myths around sexuality is precisely the one that sees older people as asexual. However, as the psychologist explains, the fact that the bodies and lives of these people have undergone changes “does not mean that they cannot enjoy the range of sexuality and feel desire and pleasure in a satisfactory way.”

Elisa Múgica positions herself in the same sense, denouncing the sale of an image of sexuality associated with youth and, specifically, beauty, and that sex has become a consumer product. “We have gone from sexual taboos and fears to compulsive consumption of sex, but we have not managed to understand that sexuality generates an experience of security and emotional satisfaction beyond pure physical pleasure. If we established this premise, we would understand sexuality at all stages of life as something healthy, rewarding and necessary,” she concludes.