They studied four groups of men and women aged 70 and older in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Nurses or doctors interviewed one group of participants in the early 1970s, a second group in the mid-1970s, a third group in the early 1990s, and a fourth group in 2000-2001.
Participants were considered sexually active if they reported having sexual intercourse during the past year.
Men and women in the most recent survey were more likely than those in the earlier surveys to report being sexually active and to say they had a happy relationship and a positive attitude toward sex.
Why the change? That's not clear, though the researchers argue that changing societal attitudes toward sex probably aren't the only reason. Better overall health, more education, and higher incomes may also make a difference, note the researchers, who included Nils Beckman, a graduate student at Sweden's Gothenburg University.
"Most elderly people consider sexual activity and associated feelings a natural part of later life," Beckman and colleagues write in BMJ Online First.
By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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