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May 7, 1960


Author Affiliations

Durham, N. C.

From the Department of Psychiatry, Duke University School of Medicine, Center for the Study of Aging.

JAMA. 1960;173(1):33-35. doi:10.1001/jama.1960.03020190035007

Recognition of the behavioral and physical factors that accompany aging is mandatory if the medical profession is to offer optimum care to an aging population. Sexual activity in older persons is one physiological function about which there is much myth, superstition, and guilt. Information based on hearsay and perhaps dictated by younger members of this society has tended to paint a picture of an asexual adjustment for the older person. The sexual activities and attitudes of 250 volunteer geriatric subjects were assessed as part of an extensive evaluation of the aging process. Despite prevalent notions that older people have no sexual activity, over one-half (54 %) of those persons who were married were still active sexually. Sexual interest and activity decline with advancing years, but cessation of sexual activity in the oldest subjects was often found to be related to decline in physical health of one or both of the marital partners.