A gray bearded man with a red hat and a blond woman, both in their sixties or seventies, drinking a glass of wine in front of the fireplace.
Illustration by Marta Pucci

The Impact of Age on Libido: No Such Thing as ‘Too Old’

Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Katherine Hertlein,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness
Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Laura Vowels,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness

TL;DR

  • Libido fluctuates over time and can be affected by many things, for example, anxiety, relationship issues, medical conditions or medications.
  • Our sex drive tends to wane as the body slows and hormone levels reduce
  • We also tend to have more responsibilities and draws on our time as we get older, meaning it can be harder to make time for sex
  • There is no reason why we cannot enjoy a healthy sex life well into our 70s, 80s and 90s, we may just have to reframe what that looks like.
  • If you want to reinvigorate your sex life at any age, try sex therapy such as sensate focus. These are designed to reduce anxiety around sex and help couples find new ways to get in touch with their bodies.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that, as we age, our bodies and brains tend to slow down. And unfortunately, our sex drive is no exception. Hormone levels begin to reduce, physical fitness is perhaps not what it once was, medical conditions can rear their heads and we can see our once healthy sex life disappearing before us.

Of course this is being overdramatic, many people enjoy a healthy sexual relationship well into their 70s, 80s and even 90s. So what can you do if you’re noticing a loss of libido and wondering if it's related to your age? Let’s look at how age impacts sexual functioning and what you can do to maintain a healthy relationship and active sex life into your later years.

Busting the myths about age and sex

Libido is a complicated thing. It can be affected by many factors, both physical and psychological. Your libido will almost certainly fluctuate throughout your life, but it may do so in an entirely different way to that of your friends and family.

It should come as no surprise that sexual drive is higher in teenagers and young adults, particularly in boys for whom testosterone levels are rising rapidly. Boys generally start masturbating earlier (1) than girls, with less than 10% boys masturbating around age 10, around half participating by age 11–12, and a substantial majority by age 13–14.

The late teens are deemed to be the peak of male sexual desire, while researchers have found evidence that female sexual desire peaks during the early 30s. (2)

And have you heard those rumours that postmenopausal women can’t, or shouldn’t, be having sex? Utter rubbish! You can and should embrace your desire for sex for as long as you are healthy and able.

Why does desire fluctuate with age?

It’s natural that we begin to slow down as we get older, so there’s a good chance that when you reach retirement you’ll experience a decrease in libido. This may be due to a reduction in estrogen levels or a dip in levels of testosterone. Or there could be one of a myriad of other reasons you’re beginning to experience some sexual dysfunction.

Menopause

From hot flashes to vaginal dryness, the menopause has a lot to answer for when it comes to its impact on women’s sexual health and quality of life. It can impact the way a woman feels about her body image, increasing feelings of anxiety around sex. But it’s not all bad news. While some postmenopausal women report a decrease in sex drive, many actually find a renewed desire and sense of freedom and confidence. It’s certainly nothing to panic about!

Life events

The older we get, the more life events we journey through, such as having and raising kids – something that can have a huge impact on your sex life and libido. Or what about starting a new job or moving abroad? Anything that creates stress or difficulties, either personally or within a relationship, will almost certainly impact on your sex life and the libido of either you or your partner.  

Long term relationships and libido

It’s often joked about that when you’ve been in a relationship for a long time the sex will dry up, but this doesn’t have to be the case. It can be easy to get in the habit of collapsing into bed at night, sticking the TV on and falling asleep facing away from each other. Of course it’s natural that when we begin a relationship we want to have sex all the time. But just because that initial desire has subsided a little doesn’t mean an exciting sex life is off the table. There are many different ways to try to get the passion back into your marriage, it just takes a little time and effort to rekindle that connection.

Making time for sex

With age comes more responsibilities and alongside this a lack of time. It’s easy to simply stop finding time for one another when you’ve been together for a while, particularly if one of you is struggling with loss of libido. It can be difficult to discuss, particularly if you’re not used to talking to your partner about sex. But if left unaddressed, this can cause real relationship issues in the longer term. It’s important that even if intercourse is undesirable to you at the moment, you make time to connect emotionally with your partner.

Sex in later life

While there is no reason that you can’t enjoy a fulfilling sex life in your later years, you will need to be mindful of health and physical activity levels. Health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and erectile function issues will be more common and these can all impact on sexual function, arousal and desire.

It may be that you’ll need to broaden your definition of sex, finding other means of stimulation if arousal becomes more of a challenge, or intercourse no longer feels comfortable for either partner.

There are also a few things you can try to help boost your libido. These include eating a healthy diet, reducing alcohol consumption and increasing levels of physical activity where possible. Above all, try not to worry. It is normal for your libido to fluctuate and even reduce with age, but there is absolutely no reason you can’t still enjoy a long and happy sex life.

If you’re struggling with a low libido and want expert help to rekindle that romance, check out Blueheart. Our sex therapists have created an innovative app that allows you to access science-backed sex therapy techniques from the comfort and privacy of your own home. Your individual program will allow you to work through a series of touch-based exercises at your own pace, bringing intimacy back into your relationship and reducing any anxiety that may have built up around the subject of sex.

1. Fortenberry, J., 2013. 'Puberty and adolescent sexuality', Hormones & Behavior, vol. 64, no. 2, pp. 280-287.
1. Schmitt, D., Shackelford, T., Duntley, J. and Tooke, W., 2002. 'Is there an early-30s peak in female sexual desire? Cross-sectional evidence from the United States and Canada', The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 1-18.
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