AARP: Sex Down, Dating Up for Americans Over 45

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A survey on sex among older Americans (i.e. baby boomers) conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) may hold some useful insight for the adult entertainment industry, which, generally speaking, tends to skew its offerings to younger people it presumes are more sexually active and porn positive (even if they don’t want to pay for the stuff). The most stunning result of the survey—and the one gaining the most headlines—is that there has been an “alarming drop” in the amount of sex being had by older Americans.

According to Ron Geraci, writing on, the survey, which was based on a random sample of 1,670 Americans ages 45 and older, found that “between 2004 and 2009, the percentage of people in their 50s who say they have sex at least once a week took about a 10-point plunge for both sexes (women dropped from 43 to 32 percent and men from 49 to 41 percent). The 50-somethings aren't special; most other age groups [in the survey] saw a drop in their frequency of sex, too.”

The lack of frequency is leaving more people frustrated, as well. “The survey found that only 43 percent of older Americans say they're satisfied with their sex lives (down from 51 percent in 2004), while the percentage who are dissatisfied with their sex lives increased,” said Geraci, adding that dissatisfaction with the amount of “affectionate acts like hugging, kissing, and caressing at least once a week” also is on the rise.

The main reason for the decline in active, satisfying sex among older Americans is attributed by the survey authors to one perhaps obvious factor: stress due to financial factors.

“Research has long shown that money worries sap sex, and with the recent unemployment scourge, yo-yoing 401(k)s and rampaging foreclosures, there's been no shortage in worries. To put it mildly, financial stress is probably hitting midlifers below the belt,” said Geraci.

"Financial worries tend to seep into all parts of a couple's life together," added Dr. Pepper Schwartz, a sexologist at the University of Washington in Seattle and AARP's love and relationships ambassador. "It's hard for some people to feel warm and sexy when they are afraid of losing their home—or they have already lost their job! People complain of feeling distant, disconnected, and emotionally bound up."

Not surprisingly, the survey results reflect a commensurate feeling among respondents that “having a healthier bank account would get their home fires burning. The percentage of 45-plus Americans who say that having better finances would make their sex lives more satisfying increased from 2004 to 2009 (from 17 to 26 percent among men, and 9 to 14 percent among women, respectively).”

While the correlation between being broke and feeling sexually depressed will be a surprise to most people, the survey also contains golden nuggets that support the idea that the boomers remain a generation of Americans not content to go sexlessly into that good night.

Dissatisfaction is on the rise because other things are on the rise as well, thanks to drugs like Viagra. A deeper look at the survey results shows that longer life spans, the new, harder more long-lasting erectile drugs (if it lasts more than four hours, call your doctor!) and a traditionally open attitude about sex has led to a correlative determination among older Americans not to waste the new erotic opportunities that are now available to them.

People who are not married are dating more frequently and having "more sex (and better love lives all-round) than their married counterparts. They win for sheer frequency; 48 percent of singles with regular partners have sex at least once a week, compared to only 36 percent of married folks. It's no surprise that 60 percent say they're satisfied with their sex lives, compared to 52 percent of their hitched peers (and just 19 percent of the single-but-not-dating crowd).”

As far as married or committed relationship people go, a notable percentage admitted to cheating (21 percent of men and 11 percent of women), and 40 percent of them said that it had no effect at all on the relationship. Indeed, according to Geraci, “Some report that infidelity made their relationship better. About 25 percent of cheaters say that it gave their relationship a boost in the sex department, and 11 percent of cheatees agree.”

While the numbers culled from the survey paint a mixed picture of sexual health, activity and satisfaction, among the massive baby boomer generation of Americans, they also reveal some great opportunities for companies in the sex trade looking to exploit whatever sexual frustration exists out there.

The Ashley Madisons of the world have been on to this for some time, of course, but maybe more producers and distributors of erotic content (and products) should pay greater attention as well. As a start, maybe some pricing discounts for members of AARP are in order.

Some stats from the survey:

  • 54 percent are married
  • 5 percent aren't married but are in a committed relationship
  • 30 percent are single (widowed, divorced, or never married) but aren't dating
  • 10 percent are single and are actively dating.
  • 1 in 5 says they're looking for a person to date.
  • 29 percent would describe their partner as "imaginative about sex."
  • 46 percent are they're less satisfied with their sex life than they were a decade ago.
  • 64 percent have never discussed their sexual fantasies with their partners.
  • 8 percent of men and 2 percent of women have a same-sex partner
  • The full survey can be read here.