The Two Young Matts
Crabby Old Lady's List of Nuisance Ailments

Can Sex Keep Old People Mentally Sharp?

There is research piled upon research telling us that to maintain our cognitive function as we grow old, we must exercise, eat lots of fruit and vegetables and keep our minds busy.

Now there may be a fourth aid to elder mental wellbeing:

“After accounting for effects of potential contributory factors (age, education, wealth, levels of physical activity, cohabiting status, general health, depression, loneliness and quality of life), we found a significant association between sexual activity and higher scores on tests of cognitive function in people over the age of 50 years,” writes Dr. Hayley Wright at the Oxford University Press Blog.

Wright conducted this study at the Centre for Research in Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement at Coventry University, England. The data for the study was taken from 6800 men and women ages 50 to 89 who were already participating in a long-term study on ageing.

”The participants were asked whether they had engaged in sexual activity over the past 12 months,” reports “The researchers used a broad definition of sexual activity in the study – it included having intercourse, masturbating, petting or fondling.”

The participants then completed two cognitive tests – one that measured memory of ten common words and a second involving executive function - filling in missing numbers in a numerical series.

Sorry women, sex appears to do more good for men's brains than women's. Men who were more sexually active showed higher scores on both kinds of tests. Women scored well only on the memory test.

One reason men score higher, they say, may have something to do with hormonal differences that could influence brain function in different ways but much more research is needed in all aspects of this study before a definitive claim can be made that sex is good for your brain.

As noted in their report, the study

”...demonstrated an association between sexual activity and cognitive function, and was not meant to show a cause-and-effect relationship. It's too early to tell whether sex is one way for older adults to keep their minds sharp or whether it is the other way around...

“[In one followup study] which is nearly complete, the researchers are analyzing the data to understand the effect of factors – such as the frequency and type of sexual activity, as well as relationship satisfaction – on cognitive function scores...”

As Wright points out in the full study at Age and Aging, there is much more work to be done but the results so far are promising.

“The findings have implications for the promotion of sexual counselling in healthcare settings, where maintaining a healthy sex life in older age could be instrumental in improving cognitive function and well-being.”

It's hard to see how the results will not be positive and Dr. Wright clearly is hopeful:

”With all the previous research on healthy lifestyles and cognitive function, wouldn't it be nice to add 'healthy sex life' to our checklist for mental and physical wellbeing in older age?”

Once that is established, all that Wright and her research cohorts will have to do is figure out where unmarried old people are going to get all this sex.


Couldn't hurt ....

That's funny! ;-)

I suspect the correlation has more to do with the overall health of the people they studied, than anything else. But I do think that it has become well known that old people enjoy sex, and that it is a good thing.

Ah!? Guess sex has to come into play somewhere in the aging research.

I'd imagine this holds for any adult age group, and pretty sure the intimacy involved and implied is more relevant, at least for me.

I wouldn't know, I'm not getting any. And I can't remember if I was different when I did.

Once that is established, all that Wright and her research cohorts will have to do is figure out where unmarried old people are going to get all this sex. -

Singles bars, like everybody else!
(Sorry, I just couldn't resist.)

We all have seen the studies showing that having a support group, and, or close family ties helps us to stay sharp and involved with life as we age....and did no one notice that included in the types of sex was masterbation ?

Since I am waaaay too old to visit a singles bar I guess I will have to investigate what all the attraction to porn is about. Maybe watching sex on a video will suffice, but so far the porn that most videos already provide hasn't done a thing for me.

As my mom used to say, "Too soon old, too late smart."

In this country we analyze everything to death! Who cares what the numbers are, whether it's solo sex or partnered sex, whether people have some cognitive decline or are just forgetful... We should be encouraging people to enjoy sex as long as they can. But in the puritanical US people of a "certain age" and especially those in semi-institutional settings (nursing homes) it is frowned on and prevented as much as possible. Although I have read, recently, that some retirement settings are encouraging it... "You go elders!" Have some warm, cuddly, fun 😘

Here is another "you must do this" given to people who are over 50. Medications can cause physical problems for men and women. Physical limitations may make having sex impractical in some cases. However, touching and hugs have always been good for people of every age. Doing research is important but the report language and the media stories seem to exaggerate the outcomes and ignore realities of life.

How amusing that women only had improvement in memory test when the cognitive test was a number sequence. Perhaps if the sequence were kitchen tools, makeup applications, or child dressing sequences, the results might be reversed.

@ Sulibran, Your comment nailed it.

@Susan, The situation in a nursing home reflects real concern about sexual abuse of a person who's unable to consent because of their medical condition. I do agree, however, that there may also be a puritanical side to prohibiting sex in nursing homes.

Relieved to see that this research is using a "broad definition of sexual activity."

"Your honor, I did not have sexual relations with that vibrator."

The truth is that most men prefer younger women and would rather do without than be with a senior like me.

I'm with Sulibran in wondering how much is cause and how much is effect. It makes sense that elders who have good cognitive function might also be more interested in sexual activity, whether self-pleasuring or with another person. On the other hand, getting the blood stirring would be good for the brain, I'd think. In any case, it's a nice prescription, and I'm glad it's being talked about positively!

I give up! Shall I sharpen my brain to get more sex, or run out and get more sex for the sake of my brain cells, or both (to be on the safe side). The how-to-be-a-terrific-older-person to-do list is turning into a multi-dimensional database already. While a great list-lover, I'm ready for a break. But thanks Ronni for introducing this new research.

    Girls, please post media selfies.

How ironic. When we're young, sex makes us stupid. When we're old, it makes us smart!

A friend who is a therapist working with the elderly assures me that the second largest group of people contracting STD's is individuals in rest homes (the largest group is high school students, sadly enough). So lots of octogenarians are getting it on! Perhaps we need to offer condoms at rest homes as well as at high schools and colleges so that couples can truly enjoy their golden years without worry!

Sex every day keeps the doct0r away! Lovemaking with a partner revives body, mind and spirit. As a 67-year-old physical fit male, I find plenty of women who are ready, willing and able -- much more so than when I was a pup 50 years ago.
Sometimes I am unable to keep up with them so they resort to vibrators. What do you give to a sexy mature woman who has everything? AA batterries. Where do I find these incredible, fascinating women? In an active over-55 retirement community where men are a minority. Follow the advice of Nike and Just Do It!

I must disagree with Emily's post "... most men are attracted to younger women and would rather do without than be with a senior like me."

Good news girl! Age is a non-factor. Men want attractive, firm-fleshed women who are passionate, loving and kind. Physical fitness and muscle tone is available through strenous exercise and attractiveness is mostly in the packaging. (I recommend reading "Younger Next Year").

I prefer women who realize life is short and it is best to grab the gusto today because tomorrow may never come; women seasoned in all aspects of life who endured husbands, children, careers, brokenhearts, survived the harshness life brings, and ready to live-love-laugh with wild passion.

You go, girl. You can do it.

The comments to this entry are closed.