Health & Well-Being

Is there Sex after Retirement?

Yes, but a survey reveals it’s not as often as it should be.

In our book, “The Retirement Maze”, we conducted a survey of 1400 retirees nationwide (I’m a retired pollster), to explore what happens in retirement. We wanted to understand the problems retirees can face as they adjust to this new stage of life, and to identify ways they can have a more satisfying retirement if it didn’t turn out as they would have liked.

One of the topics we looked into was the impact of retirement on marriage — how all that free time together affects the relationship between husbands and wives. And one aspect of the marital relationship is sex.

I remember the first time I had sex. I kept the receipt.

-Groucho Marx

Before we get into the sex habits of retirees, we should first mention that sex is good for you. There are countless magazine articles, websites, and other information sources that list it’s psychological and physiological benefits. Here’s a summary of what researchers have discovered:

  • Improves self-esteem, relieves stress, and improves coping with stressful situations.
  • Improves immunity to illnesses. Sex allows the body to produce anti-bodies that help protect from colds and other infections. Sexual excitement increases production of the hormone DHEA, which boosts the immune system, repairs tissue, improves cognition, and keeps skin healthy.
  • Every 30 minutes of sexual activity burns roughly 85 to 150 calories, resulting in the loss of about a pound for every 42 occasions.
  • Can lower diastolic blood pressure and cut in half the risk of suffering a fatal heart attack among men.
  • Makes you feel better about your relationship. Sex helps to produce oxytocin, the love hormone, which enhances trust, nurturance, and bonding between partners. Oxytocin also promotes better sleep, which is linked to better health and weight loss.
  • Endorphins are also released during sex, which has a close resemblance to morphine, helping to reduce physical pain.
  • Can lower the odds of prostate cancer among men. Men who have had frequent ejaculations while in their 20’s (an average of 5 or more per week) were less likely to have prostate cancer when they got older. For women, those who do pelvic muscle exercises (Kegels) during sex have more pleasure, but also have lower odds of suffering incontinence (loss of bladder control) later on.
  • Increases production of both testosterone and estrogen. Testosterone helps fortify bones and muscles, and keeps your heart in good working condition. In women, estrogen also protects against heart disease.

Back to retirees — one might assume that, with all the free time alone and the lack of job-related pressures, the sex lives of retirees would blossom, if for no other reason than to add a diversion on days when there’s nothing else to do. But we actually found the reverse – retirees have sex less often in comparison to their counterparts still in the workforce. The drop off is pretty substantial; not only does the frequency decline, but retirees rate their sex lives less favorably overall and feel it has suffered since they retired. Here’s some of the statistics:

  • Only about 75% of those retired have sex regularly (at least once per month) versus 90% among those of the same age who are employed. The average frequency is 4.9 times per month among retirees as compared to 8.8 times for those still working.
  • This is not solely a matter of being “older people”, but seems to be a function of retirement itself. Among those 55-64 years of age, sexual intimacy occurs 5.9 times per month among retirees, versus 9.6 times among those still working; for those 65 and older, 3.6 times per month for retirees vs. 5.7 times among employees.
  • Only 39% of retirees rate their sex life as excellent or very good versus 50% among those still in the workforce. In fact, about 3 of 10 of all retirees say their sex lives got worse after they retired, and only 13% say it has gotten better.

I haven’t trusted polls since I read that 62% of women have sex on their lunch hour. I’ve never met a woman in my life who would give up lunch for sex.

-Irma Bombeck

We’re not entirely sure why there’s such a downturn. Retirees on the whole are just as happily married as people who are still working. But if we are to hazard a guess, there could be a few factors:

  • Possibly it’s the increased amount of time together. This would be in the sense that too much familiarity breeds contempt, or at least disinterest. Or being in such close quarters provides more opportunities for skirmishes, which can put emotional distance between partners.
  • Maybe it has to do with self-esteem. Retirees rate themselves much lower than those who are working, and a weakened self-confidence could inhibit sexual desire, and possibly competence.
  • Retirees tend to feel less energetic. The retirement lifestyle can be de-motivating and produce laziness, and laziness begets more laziness. So with a lower overall drive, many retirees have a reduced inclination to have or want sex.

Whatever the reasons, this is not an ideal situation. Putting forth effort to maintain an active sex life should be higher on a retiree’s agenda, if for no other reason than it’s health benefits. This is one thing that’s just as easily done than said, after all. As we mentioned above, a good sex life will make you feel more connected with their partner, feel better emotionally and psychologically, and improve your motivation to do other things. This is a health and exercise regimen that you can devote your time and effort to without much chance of getting injured.

For those who just cannot find their way to a more interesting and satisfying sex life, they might want to consider a visit to a sex therapist. The results of doing so might be surprisingly helpful, but if not, will likely give you and your partner a good laugh.

Either way, to borrow a line from Nike — Just Do It.

My wife wants sex in the backseat of the car.  And she wants me to drive.

-Rodney Dangerfield

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