There is a huge misconception about sexuality among elderly women in Nigeria and there are very few publications on this subject matter to make up for the knowledge gap.
However, studies have shown that women above 69 are not sexually dysfunctional, but may engage less often in sexual activity.
In one of the few researches conducted in Nigeria, the sexuality of 100 participants aged 66 – 83 was analysed. In the study, about 50 percent of the women confirmed that they still have desire for sexual activity.
This revealed that old age does not make you asexual, as it will be ignorant of anyone to think so. Your body still retains some of its sexual functions even when you’re past 70 years.
Sexual function should not be confused with sexual activity. The former deals with the stages of the sexual response cycle which include: sexual desire, erection, orgasm and ejaculation. On the other hand, sexual activity refers to the actual intercourse.
The frequency of sexual activity is subject to a number of personal and environmental factors, which include:
- Marriage status
- Physical and mental health
- Financial status
- Access to performance enhancing medications
- Alcohol use
Attitude: Women who have positive attitude towards their sexuality are most associated with being sexually active past the age of 70.
Unfortunately, most women over the years have developed a negative attitude towards sex. This is heavily linked to societal disposition to tag their interest in sex as undignified and disgraceful.
Individuals who are sexually positive actively decide who and what they want from their sex lives, and that is a privilege society has bestowed on men alone.
In the study conducted in Nigeria, 33.3 percent of women considered sex in the aging population as a taboo while 78.9 percent of men also within the age group considered sex to be safe and pleasurable.
Marital status: In a Swedish study on the sexuality of older women, only 20 percent of the women who were single reported being sexually active past the age of 70, as against 56 percent of married women.
Physical and mental health: A major factor responsible for sexual dysfunction is poor health status. Women with chronic diseases have been found to have reduced sexual activity. Dyspareunia, vagina dryness due to reduced oestrogen and testosterone, have been reported to be a major factor leading to sexual dysfunction in Nigerian women.
This also applies to the women’s partners. Women whose partners have diabetes, coronary heart disease or depression have been found to engage less often in sex.
Financial status: Economic stress triggers a lot of negative emotions in couples which build up to resentment and in turn, affects their sex lives. Most women withhold sex from their partners to show their frustration.
Access to medications: As women age, there are significant changes in their anatomy. After menopause, oestrogen and testosterone levels drop leading to decreased libido and vagina dryness in older women.
Women who can access pharmaceutical enhancers and lubricating gels to solve these sex-related issues will enjoy an active sex life for a long time.
Culture: In regions where sex among the elderly is not seen as a taboo, older women are more likely to enjoy active sex lives. In Nigeria, talking about sexuality problems among the elderly is still frowned at. In the Nigerian study, only 20 percent of women within the age group (66 – 83) have discussed their sexual problems with their partners and none of the women have ever discussed it with a doctor. This is directly linked to the fact that the Nigerian society still does not view a women’s interest in sex (or related issues) as proper.
Alcohol use: This might surprise you but alcohol increases testosterone levels in females which promotes sexual desire. Older women who take alcohol are more open to sexual activities than those who do not. Alcohol relieves stress and its effect on the prefrontal cortex promotes feeling of emotional connection.
The relationship between alcohol and sex is tricky because all these benefits of alcohol are easily overturned if it is taken in excess. If you are a female reading this, you have a better chance than ever to enjoy a satisfying sex life long into your older years. People who are enlightened are more likely to have a positive attitude towards sex.
It is true that there is a significant decline in sexual function as aging occurs but old age does not shut down a woman’s ability to enjoy a healthy sexual life with her partner.
Adeoti Adekunle Olatayo et al. Sexuality in Nigerian Older Adults. The Pan African Medical Journal. 2015 Dec; 22:315