Older men: Rethinking a healthy sex life

Matthew Solan

Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch

Men have to accept many changes as they age — less hair, less muscle — but less sex doesn’t have to be one of them. In fact, 54% of men over age 70 are still sexually active, according to research in the January 2016 issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior.

What many men do need to change, however, is their mindset about this next phase of their sex lives. “Many continue to focus only on the physical aspect, so when issues like erectile dysfunction or unpredictable sex drives arise, it can trigger guilt, anxiety, and frustration,” says Dr. Sharon Bober, director of the Sexual Health Program at Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Center.

One way to overcome this barrier is to think less about intercourse and more about “outercourse.” This means to direct your attention and energy more on foreplay and manual stimulation with your partner. “The emphasis is on intimacy and closeness rather than performance,” says Dr. Bober. “This allows men to become less stressed and more engaged in connecting with their partner.”

What you can do

Here are some ways to better embrace outercourse:

Recreate date night. Make an effort to go out on a scheduled basis and experience something new together. It could be a hobby or an event you both have always wanted to check out, or even a quick day or overnight trip. “Doing something different can offer a sense of excitement that can bring you and your partner closer together,” says Dr. Bober. “Couples need to have romance and novelty to be emotionally, mentally, and physically stimulated.”

Focus on the nonsexual. When was the last time you and your partner just hugged, kissed, and explored each other’s bodies without the goal of sex? “Couples may say they don’t do that anymore because they are married, but do not underestimate the excitement of re-exploring the early rituals of courtship,” she says.

Mix up your sex routine. “Give each other a massage as part of foreplay, or try a different setting or time of day, like having sex in the morning when you both may be well rested,” says Dr. Bober. “Just having a conversation about how to change up the regular routine can be fun and exciting.”

Changes in desire

Men can lose interest in sex at times, but that is normal, says Dr. Bober. It often occurs because the sexual connection between your mind and body is out of sync. During these periods, it can be helpful to engage more in the mental side of sex, such as erotic thoughts, fantasy, and memories, says Dr. Bober. “This kind of mental engagement can be quite pleasurable for men without needing physical stimulation, and eventually it can help the mind and body reconnect.”

Desire also can wane if you are not involved with anyone. But again, do not feel under pressure to fill that part of your life. “You need to ask yourself if it bothers you,” says Dr. Bober. “If it is not something on your radar right now, no need to worry about it. You will know when you are ready for affection.”

Do not forget to take care of yourself so you can continue to enjoy your sex life. Many medical conditions can affect sexual drive and performance, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. “If you want to be active, you have to stay active, and that means focusing on your exercise routine and being diligent about a proper diet and medical check-ups,” says Dr. Bober.

Related Information: Sexuality in Midlife and Beyond


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  2. Al. Gomes

    I am a 70 year old male who has been on statins for approximately 20 years. My libido kept dropping and my testosterone level is approx. 229. I wonder if there is any research on the relationship between statin drugs and testosterone and decreased libido? Anyone out there having info. on this area, please post a comments. .

  3. Howard Wetzell

    I recently lost my wife after a long illness. I am looking forward to meeting a grieving widow to share life with. I realise that my wife can not be replaced with a new love but a mutual friendship would be rewarding.

  4. Jack Daily

    I am a 71 year old male in good health.I have such a need for sex however my 69 year old wife wants nothing to do with it.
    I am seriously thinking of using “escorts” to satisfy me needs.Am I wrong ?

    • Shaquille Johnson


    • Jamynn

      Hi, Jack ~ About using an escort … there are a few different scenarios to consider. (1) Fine, if your wife IS fine with it but if she is fine with it, she no longer feels an emotional attachment to you so it won’t matter, just as long as you still take out the garbage, and use the cheap hookers so the cost doesn’t impact her financially. (2) If she ISN’T fine with it, she does still feel an emotional attachment so the thought of you being intimate with someone else would hurt her. (3) Also, women AND men are very territorial about their mates. So ask yourself – if the circumstances were reversed , would YOU be OK with it? I’d bet not. (4) If you already know she wouldn’t be fine with it and you decide to pursue it anyway, then you are betraying her, and paying a hooker to be no more than a semen receptacle, which makes you a dirt bag.

      This subject hits home with me because in my case, the circumstances are reversed. I’m 59, he’s only 53, and he can’t sustain an erection, causing much frustration for both of us. When we first got together 3 years ago, we had both been celibate for over 2 years. We were pretty hot for each other so decided to make up for lost time. We were very active ONLY because I WAS THE ONE who would initiate it, and he was good to go then. But he has a lot of pain from old injuries and it was difficult for him physically but he wanted to please me so sucked it up. Eventually the truth came out because it became too much for him. But honestly, even when we were being active, he wasn’t good at it. I shined it because I liked him so much as a boyfriend and admired many things about him as a man, so decided it wasn’t a deal breaker But I’ll be honest. I am a very horny woman and I really miss having GOOD sex! It actually did enter my mind to use an “escort.” But I know it would NOT be the right thing to do, nor a good idea and would only turn out very badly. So I decided against that. So I still maintain a regular relationship with BOB – battery-operated-boyfriend, and on occasion, SAM – shower and massager! I still fondle and grope my man, and we kiss, hug, hold hands, and enjoy each others company a lot. But he is just not sexual. Doesn’t react to seeing me naked and never tries to cop a feel. Once when we tried to have sex but it didn’t go well, I got very upset, and I even accused him of being gay! Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but as a woman who has always been very desirable to men, this is a hard one to take! My past relationships were primarily based on the hot sex, but we were not compatible in the core fundamentals so they didn’t last. Now I’m with a guy with whom I am very compatible in the core fundamentals but forget about the hot sex! Know what, Jack? Ever heard the saying “We can’t have it all”? Well, that’s what I tell myself quite often these days, and you may have to resign yourself to that, as well! That is, if you really love your wife. Otherwise, you’re being a selfish prick and going down a very bad road!

  5. Lee Schelin

    I’ve found that after taking a Statin for 6-8 months eight years ago my libido started vanishing and now it’s almost at Zero. My testosterone went from 500+ to its present state of 235.

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