Issues in aging

October 2010

FocusIssues in aging

Aging and sexuality

Volume 39, No.10, October 2010 Pages 718-721

Lesley Yee


Sexuality has become a medical issue in association with aging. This is due to a number of factors, including increasing age of survival, a positive societal construct that promotes sexuality as important for quality of life as we age, and the medicalisation of sexuality with the advent of prescription medications to treat sexual dysfunction.


This article reviews the factors surrounding aging and sexuality and also considers special situations with age, such as institutionalised care and the possibility of elder abuse.


Normal physiological changes with aging affect both genders in terms of sexual desire and performance. Other medical conditions increase with age, and these and their treatments will impact on sexuality and the way it can be expressed. Medical practitioners require an understanding of these changes in order to find ways to optimise sexual function in older patients.

In Australia, 'older people' are defined as those being over 65 years of age; and the proportion of the population in this age group is steadily increasing. In the 12 months to 30 June 2009, the number of people aged 65 years and over in Australia increased by 85 800, representing a 3.0% increase.1 This increase is due to a significant reduction in mortality. The average Australian male has a life expectancy of 78.1 years and the average Australian female has a life expectancy of 83.0 years.1

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