This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Sexual function and activity in old age have been inadequately studied world over. It is important to know that aging processes are not confined to persons beyond the age of 60 years; many changes in elderly have their antecedents in the middle age.
This study sought to determine the patterns of sexual activity and function in individuals over 50 years of age. It also sought to discuss barriers such as chronic illness that may interfere with sexual function. We conducted a study of subjects above the age of 50 years in various outpatient departments OPDs of a teaching municipal hospital in Mumbai, by interviewing 60 individuals who attended the OPDs, after taking their informed consent.
Socio-demographic and other information on their sexual function and activities were obtained. Data was analyzed using statistical package for social sciences v Others had become completely abstinent at some time in their lives. Statistical analysis revealed significant gender, health and educational status based differences in the sample.
Our study showed significant presence of sexual desire, activity and function even after the age of 50 years; a decline by the age of 60 and above was a finding that reflected more in women.
Chronic illness did affect sexual function and desire. Despite this, many people, young and old alike, are astounded at the idea of people remaining sexually active in their sixties and beyond. It is frequently assumed that elder persons lose their sexual desires or that they are physically unable to perform. For the elders, the ability to remain sexually active is a major concern in their lives. Fear about the loss of sexual prowess in older males is common. Older women also express sexual desire, but may fear their interest is undignified and disgraceful.
Some elder persons may even freely accept their interests in sex, but their children or grandchildren may disapprove, making them feel guilty. The elder often view sexuality as an expression of passion, affection, admiration, and loyalty, a renewal of romance, a general affirmation of life, especially the expression of joy and a continuing opportunity for growth and experience.
In addition, sexual activity is a means for the elder to affirm physical functioning, to maintain a strong sense of identity and establish self-confidence, and to prevent anxiety. It remains a mode of pure physical pleasure as well.
However, not all elder persons have positive attitudes about sexuality. Like all persons, elders may experience sexual dysfunction due to boredom, fear, fatigue, grief, or other factors e. Sexuality in the elder is particularly affected by problems that are common in this age group, for example, depression, medical disorders, or incapacitation or death of a partner. Clinicians tend to ignore this aspect of the lives of elders, who themselves can find sexual problems very difficult to talk about.
In psychiatric interview of elders, sexual history and details are often omitted. Human sexuality and particularly sexuality in the elderly is an area that requires more attention in psychiatric training.
Yet, very little attention has been paid until recently to the treatment of sexual dysfunction in older adults. Older individuals are generally erroneously viewed as asexual people who have lost both their interest in sex and their capacity for sexual behavior.
We interviewed 60 consecutive elder individuals 30 men and 30 women above the age of 50 years from the Geriatric, Hypertension, Rheumatology and Diabetes outpatient departments OPDs of a tertiary hospital in Mumbai after obtaining their informed consent.
Individuals with any previously diagnosed psychiatric disorders or dementia or HIV-positive individuals were excluded from the study. Subjects were briefed about the study and were interviewed to answer a self-prepared questionnaire probing into various areas of sexuality.
Data was pooled and statistical analysis was done using statistical package for social sciences v15 ; chi-square test was applied wherever necessary. Individuals in the age group between 50 and 60 years comprised Of those who were ill The findings in different areas of sexuality in the subjects were as follows: