Healthy, Satisfying Sex at Any Age

Expert tips for every decade of a woman’s adult life.

Medically reviewed in February 2021

Updated on March 18, 2022

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Good sex can—and should—happen as you get older.

“A woman's best sex truly can happen at any time,” says Melissa Hague, MD, an OBGYN at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas. “As long as she feels confident in the person she is, secure with her partner, and she’s comfortable physically.”

Whatever stage of life you’re in right now, here are expert-approved tips for healthy, satisfying sex.

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Set the right mood in your twenties

Studies suggest that in human beings, sexual arousal is determined by not one but two control systems. Everyone has both a sexual excitation system (SES) and a sexual inhibition system (SIS). The SES is like stepping on the gas, getting you turned on, while the SIS is like stepping on the brakes. In some people, one system is stronger than the other, helping explain variations in people’s sexual responses.

The SIS can fire up if you’re worried about performance in bed or the potential physical and emotional risks of sex, leading you to stop feeling turned on, or not to get turned on in the first place. This may help explain why young women may find it hard to get in the mood; they have a lot on their plate. Understandably, many worry about the possible consequences of sex, like sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or (in heterosexual relationships) unplanned pregnancy. These thoughts can activate the SIS.

If your body keeps slamming on the brakes, work with your partner to identify and remove your stressors. For example, if you’re worried about STIs, talk to your partner about getting tested together.

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Plan ahead in your early thirties

More people are waiting to start a family than in the past, so many women are getting married or committing to a partner in their 30s, according to Dr. Hague. That means they’ll often enjoy time with just their spouse for a few years before having kids.

“If you don’t want to have kids until your 40s or later, see a reproductive endocrinologist, or hormone doctor, in your 30s to learn about preserving your eggs for later use,” recommends Hague.

Also, if you’re a new 30-something parent, don’t be discouraged by the libido dip that may occur with breastfeeding (though this doesn’t affect everyone). When you breastfeed, your body releases the hormone prolactin, which may cause your sex drive to plummet. (Post-partum depression, which has been tied to sexual problems after birth, may also affect you.) You will also have lower estrogen levels at this time. After weaning, your hormones will change again. Many people find that their libido comes back.

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Feel extra confident in your late thirties to forties

Many forty-something women report having frequent and pleasurable sex—in fact, some evidence suggests they're enjoying orgasm more consistently than younger or older women are. A 2016 study published in Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology reported the results of six national surveys in Finnish adults that were done from 1971 to 2015, involving 6,155 women. It found that, in 2015, over 60 percent of women aged 35 to 44 experienced orgasm every time they had sex (the survey asked about penis-vaginal sex). (Back in 1971, just over 50 percent were.) The next-most orgasmic group? Women aged 45 to 54, just under half of whom reported having an orgasm each time they had sex.

“Your largest sexual organ is your brain,” says Hague. “A lot of women in their 40s are finally at a place where they’re comfortable with themselves. Often, they have a long-term partner who they're more willing to talk with about sexual issues. Plus, they’re better able to verbalize what makes them feel good in bed.”

middle aged couple kissing in the kitchen
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Stay pain-free in your fifties

On average, women in the United States start menopause around age 51. While menopause means relief from uncomfortable periods, it can also get in the way of bedroom bliss: Between 17 percent and 45 percent of women report pain with intercourse during this time.

“If sex starts to hurt from vaginal itching or dryness, don’t wait until you can’t tolerate it anymore. Get help when the pain starts or it becomes harder to climax,” says Hague. To find a doctor specializing in sexual health, Hague recommends checking with the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health.

Don’t let dryness keep you from enjoying sex. For temporary relief, try vaginal moisturizers or lubricants, estrogen cream, water-based lubricant, or olive oil (but steer clear of olive oil if you’re using latex condoms; oils can damage them).

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Stay fit in your sixties

In your 60s, conditions like heart disease and diabetes that affect your circulation can prevent arousal. Stiff joints may also make your favorite positions more difficult.

Getting more physical activity can help. Start with walking, which both improves circulation and supports healthy joints. Plus, 30 minutes of walking a day lowers your risk of:

  • Arthritis
  • Stroke
  • Depression

You can take your partner along for some romantic one-on-one time. Sex, exercise, and overall health go hand-in-hand: “Couples who have sex regularly are not only healthier in their relationship, they also tend to be healthier physically and more active,” Hague says.

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Practice safer sex in your seventies

In your 70s, many people have more time on their hands. And for some 70-somethings, the extra time can make for an exciting sex life. One 2015 study of English adults in their 70s and 80s found that 54 percent of men and 31 percent of women remained sexually active, with one-third of those folks having sex at least twice a month.

Still, be prudent. Age alone doesn’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rates of diseases like gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, and syphilis are rising steeply among older adults. Many older people—some of whom may be recently widowed and re-entering the dating pool—underestimate their risk, while healthcare providers (HCPs) often don’t bring it up.

“Even though you can’t get pregnant, condoms are always recommended if you or your partner is having sex with multiple partners,” says Hague. “You’re still at risk for STIs like HIV and herpes.”

If you or your partner have another partner (or your partners have other partners), consider getting routine HIV screenings and regular STI checks. Most clinics offer simple 20-minute HIV screenings that don’t even require a needle stick—just a finger prick or a mouth swab.

senior couple staring out to sea
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Find romance in your eighties

Since women often outlive men, women in their 80s can have a harder time finding someone to get intimate with. Here’s how to meet someone special in your 80s:

  • Socialize: Join an exercise group or sign up for activities at your local senior center. You might find romance, plus seniors with a strong social network have been found to live longer.
  • Volunteer: Helping with a cause you’re passionate about can lead you to a like-minded partner. Also, evidence suggests that some seniors who volunteer experience less depression and lower blood pressure.
  • Hit the books: Sign up for continuing education classes in your area. You could pursue a life-long academic interest and schedule “study sessions” with the cutie from class.
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Kinsey Institute. The Dual Control Model of Sexual Response. Accessed March 17, 2022.
Bancroft J, Graham CA, Janssen E, Sanders SA. The dual control model: current status and future directions. J Sex Res. 2009;46(2-3):121-142.
Cecilia M. Ford. The New Normal: Sex Educator Emily Nagoski Explains That It’s All Good (Part One). May 12, 2016.
John Fleming. Gallup Analysis: Millennials, Marriage and Family. May 19, 2016.
Curtin SC, Sutton PD. Marriage rates in the United States, 1900–2018. NCHS Health E-Stat. 2020.
Kim Parker and Renee Stepler. As U.S. marriage rate hovers at 50%, education gap in marital status widens. September 14, 2017.
Polomeno V. Sex and Breastfeeding: An Educational Perspective. J Perinat Educ. 1999;8(1):30-40.
La Leche League International. Breastfeeding and Sex. February 2018.
Forster C, Abraham S, Taylor A, Llewellyn-Jones D. Psychological and sexual changes after the cessation of breast-feeding. Obstet Gynecol. 1994;84(5):872-876.
Rowland M, Foxcroft L, Hopman WM, Patel R. Breastfeeding and sexuality immediately post partum. Can Fam Physician. 2005;51(10):1366-1367.
NCT. 1st 1,000 Days New Parent Support. Breastfeeding and sex: five surprising facts. Last reviewed April 2018.
Morof D, Barrett G, Peacock J, Victor CR, Manyonda I. Postnatal depression and sexual health after childbirth. Obstet Gynecol. 2003;102(6):1318-1325.
Kontula O, Miettinen A. Determinants of female sexual orgasms. Socioaffect Neurosci Psychol. 2016;6:31624. Published 2016 Oct 25.
Mayo Clinic. Menopause. October 14, 2020.
Mayo Clinic. Vaginal dryness after menopause: How to treat it? July 11, 2020.
North American Menopause Society. Pain with Penetration. Accessed March 17, 2022.
Arthritis Foundation. 12 Benefits of Walking. Accessed March 17, 2022.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Benefits of Physical Activity. Page last reviewed November 1, 2021.
University of Manchester. Love and intimacy in later life: study reveals active sex lives of over-70s. January 28, 2015.
Lee DM, Nazroo J, O'Connor DB, Blake M, Pendleton N. Sexual Health and Well-being Among Older Men and Women in England: Findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Arch Sex Behav. 2016;45(1):133-144.
Holly Cooper Ford. UVA Health. Sex After 60: STD Rates Booming for Boomers. April 11, 2019.
Patricia Scanlon. The Well by Northwell. After Decades of Decline, STD Rates are Rising. February 14, 2020.
ACRIA and the New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA). Older Adults and Sexual Health: A Guide for Aging Services Providers. Updated September 2020.
Thornton J. WHO report shows that women outlive men worldwide. BMJ 2019; 365 :l1631.
Trudel-Fitzgerald C, Zevon ES, Kawachi I, Tucker-Seeley RD, Grodstein F, Kubzansky LD. The Prospective Association of Social Integration With Life Span and Exceptional Longevity in Women. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2020;75(10):2132-2141.
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