Results of a new study on sexuality at midlife and beyond, published in the current issue of AARP: The Magazine, was examined by The Early Show in its "5-0h!" series.
Hugh Delehanty, AARP publications editor-in-chief, and therapist Sallie Foley, author of "Sex & Love for Grownups," talked about it with co-anchor Harry Smith.
AARP did its first study of sexual attitudes in 1999. The recent study says that to seniors, relationships matter, intimacy is part of life and fidelity is important.
"It's not about free love," Delehanty said. "It's about deepening intimate relationships. What we found in this study is that there are three aspects to that new sexual revolution."
First, quality of life includes sexual activity. Delehanty explained, "A wide number of people, think that sex is an important part of a quality of life throughout your life, not just when you're young."
But the survey found that sex is not the most important part of life. Ranking higher was: being in good spirits, being healthy, good relationships with family and friends, financial security, good relationship with partner, spiritual well-being.
Second, use of medicine was accepted to improve sexual relationships. Delehanty said, "If there is a health problem related to sex, you're going to do something about it; not just roll over and say: 'Oh, that's just aging.'"
And third, Delehanty said, "Boomers are much more open to sex and much more tolerant of people who are unmarried having sex. But they're very conservative, as conservative as their elders, about fidelity. So this is all about relationships."
Foley pointed out that boomers' attitudes about relationships are the same as their parents, but boomers are more open to asking questions and getting answers.
And yet according to the survey, 27 percent of women and 62 percent of men 60 and older considered sex very important. The reason?
Delehanty said, "One of the things we found in the survey is that partnership, whether you have a partner or not, is critical to your feeling of satisfaction about sex. And, unfortunately, women over 60 are less likely to have a partner than men."
But Foley said that 27 percent of women should not be underestimated.
"I think you have to give the culture a chance to catch up a little bit, too," she said. "This is a group of women, people in their 60s and 70s, who in the 1950s were told by the American Medical Association that 75 percent of them were frigid. So if you think about that, they really won their own cold war by still 27 percent of them wanting to be sexual."
And Delehanty noted that according to a study conducted six years ago by the AARP, "Women of all ages, not just boomer women, say that their sex lives are better if their partners are taking drugs (like Viagra), and that goes counter to the myth that women over a certain age aren't interested in sex. This shows exactly the opposite."
As for the reason why the survey found that a significant number of men tried potency enhancing drugs only once, Delehanty said, "Part of the reason for that is that those kinds of drugs, they deal with sexual problems in potency, but they don't increase desire, and desire is the critical thing. And a lot of people will take the drug, thinking they'll feel more desire, but that's not what those drugs do."