Later years

Cross-sectional studies in this age group have studied factors which relate to sexual activity. One of the largest sampled 166 males and 266 females aged 70. 'I1' Only 46 per cent of males and 16 per cent of females still had coitus, and activity was associated with better mental health. The lower activity in females was largely due to women having older partners. Martin*12.' found that male activity in old age paralleled activity at younger ages, and this finding was confirmed by Vallery-Masson et a/.(i3> Exceptional populations show exceptional activity. Bretschneider and McCoy (1J> invited residents of a private residential complex for the over-eighties to fill out a questionnaire. The results are summarized in Table3.

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Table 3 Sexual activity in the over-eighties

Hallstrom followed up his menopause sample after 6 years and found that loss of sexual desire at follow-up was associated with a low desire at the first interview. (!5> Pfeiffer et a/A6' suggested that sexual activity might increase, and found this in 6 per cent of their sample. A second study, (!7) with a truly random sample, limited the analysis to those living with their partner throughout the study period. The results are summarized in Table..!. Comparison of the predicted levels of activity (figures in parentheses) with those obtained shows that this population, like that surveyed by Janus and Janus, (6) does not show as much decline with age as expected. The explanation may be the expectations of the current elderly population or that, with a longer life expectancy today's 70-year-olds are biologically younger than those of 20 years ago.

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Table 4 Mean frequency of sexual relations

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