We’re Still Having Sex!

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Does sex get better with age? We asked, you answered! We’re talking sex in the Zoomer April 2014 issue – on newsstands starting March 10!

The Zoomer Sex Survey: Better With Age

And that’s the question. Does it get better with age? Can we, the largest demographic in the county, redefine what sex with age means? We asked Angela Muzzo, head of The Clean Slate Shop, a division of headsup. Muzzo applied her more than 20 years of marketing research experience to the task of designing, researching and then analyzing her findings, and here’s what she discovered about sex and the Zoomer. Hint: it’s hotter than you might think!

The key objective of the sex survey is to explore both the type of sexual relationships that exist as well as the meaning derived from these relationships. One of the main goals is to understand whether we can dispel some of the myths about sex in mid-life, and shed new light on sexuality and relationships among Zoomers.

“Positive Self-Esteem:  Looking Good & Taking Good Care”

This story begins on a positive note.  The 45+ crowd feels healthy, takes care of themselves mostly by eating well, sleeping well, getting light exercise, and taking vitamins.  They are happy with the way they look.  In fact, they look in the mirror and see someone who is younger than they actually are (both men and women, across all age groups)!  And this is without the intervention of any physical enhancements.  Moreover, this perception reigns despite the fact that they tend to be on the over-weight side, and have some medical conditions common with age that require a prescription and monitoring by a doctor.

  • 77% rate their overall health as “good/excellent” (18% say “excellent”).
  • The majority (84%) at least occasionally engage in moderate or light exercise.  About half are very active:  46% regularly engage in moderate or light exercise; 16% regularly engage in heavy exercise that gets their heart pumping.
  • They have good eating habits (71% saying “good or excellent”) and sleep habits (53% saying “good or excellent”).
  • The majority regularly take vitamins (60%); 26% take nutritional supplements.
  • Majority happy with their looks (70% somewhat/very satisfied) – true across all age groups.
  • Most (64%) think they look “younger than they are” (across all age groups, men and women!).
  • 68% classify themselves as at least slightly overweight (with 30% saying they are moderately/very overweight).
  • The majority regularly take prescription meds (62%); 60% are being monitored by a doctor for a physical condition (high blood pressure and high cholesterol are most common – 34% and 28%, respectively).
  • Small minority had plastic surgery or are considering any physical enhancements (3% and 7%) {Higher among 45 – 49 yr. olds at 6% and 12%, respectively}.

Sex Life?  “Going Strong.  Like It, Want It, Do It, Keep It Turned On”

Mostly a crowd of heterosexuals in married relationships, the majority enjoy sex, want sex and are actively engaging in sexual activity, with half always ready to go and the other half needing a bit of time to get in the game.  Sexual activity was defined as “sexual intercourse, oral sex, genital stimulation, or masturbation”.  Fantasies about sex are just as common, but only a few actually carry them out.  They do, however, work on keeping their love life going, using pornographic content, new sex environments and new sex positions to keep it up or change it up.

What’s Their Sexual Style?

  • Mostly heterosexual (90%) with opposite-sex partners (93% of those who are sexually active).

Do They Enjoy Sex? Want Sex? Fantasize About Sex?

  • Majority enjoys sex (72%, with 38% who “love it, always ready to engage” and 34% who “can enjoy sex, but it sometimes can take a while to get into it”).
  • Majority has the desire to engage at least monthly (74%, with 56% wanting to weekly or more often) . . . and desire is being actualized at a rate of 86% (at least monthly) and 82% (at least weekly).
  • Moreover, the majority fantasizes about sex (72% at least monthly, 50% at least weekly) and of these, 28% carry out their fantasies at least some of the time.

How Do They Keep Their Sexual Interest “Turned On”?

  • Two-thirds agree they “really make an effort to keep their love life going”
  • Pornographic content (41%), new sex positions (37%) and new sex environments (31%) are the most common ways that the 45+ crowd keeps their sexual interest going.  These increase in popularity with younger people.

What Does Maturity Bring To The Sexual Equation?  “The Confidence & Freedom To Try Something New!”

With maturity, comes comfort with sexuality, fewer inhibitions, and more confidence to ask for what they want and to satisfy their partner. For some, it means a better sex life.

  • They agree “I’m less inhibited about sex now that I’m older, because I am comfortable with who I am” (66%). There is also a high degree of confidence in their ability to satisfy a sexual partner (73%).
  • A good number of them (37% of women and 30% of men) confirm their “sex life is more satisfying today than it was in their youth”.

For many, sex is not something they avoid, but an area of their life they would like to explore further.

  • Most agree (61%) that “I’m open to trying new things when it comes to sex.”
  • They disagree with the statements “More and more, I find myself making excuses to avoid any sexual activity” (61%) and “Sex is over-rated.  I could care less whether or not I have it” (59%).

 The Relationship Is In Better Shape Than The Sex Life, For Which There Is A Desire To Improve

After an average of 26 years of partnership, couples 45+ are pretty pleased, giving their overall relationship an average score of 8 out of 10.  They are equally content with their level of commitment, support and respect for one another, and feeling like equals in the partnership.  While their physical attraction to each other is also at this high level, their sex life is the lowest scoring element of their relationship (6 out of 10).  So what gives?

Is it their interest in sex?  No, that tends to be similar (70%), albeit a little lower than the similarity they have with their partners in terms of their race, ethnic background, interest in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, religious beliefs, work ethic, work/life balance (tend to be 80% or higher).

Is it because one person is more selfish than the other?  No, most say they are in it for both their own as well as their partner’s pleasure (71%).   Are they friends more than lovers?  No as well – 61% claim to be equally good friends and lovers (only 4% say they are better lovers than friends). Are they shy to ask for what they want?  No again – 78% are at least somewhat confident to ask, with 37% saying they are very confident).

The Sex Debate Is Still One Of Quantity Over Quality:  The Frequency Challenge Is One Of Low Libidos, Inconsistent Desire, And Time For Stimulation

The 45+ group rates their sex life a 6.4 out of 10, on average.  What’s interesting is that most aspects of their sex life – foreplay, romance, playfulness, orgasm – score in this 6/10 range.  Frequency of sex, however, has a lower score of 5.6.   In fact, frequency is the number one subject discussed among couples.  When asked directly between a preference for “more sex” versus “better sex”, the balance of opinion leans toward “more sex” (57% vs. 43%) – across all age groups.  Key factors depressing sexual frequency are inconsistent desire, low libidos and more stimulation or time to get engaged.

  • Inconsistency of desire:  About a third (36%) are usually on “the same page” with their partner in terms of consistency of sexual desire; another 43% say they are sometimes consistent, while 21% say they are rarely on the same page.
  • Low libido:  About half concede that their libido “could really use a boost” (particularly Males 65+ and Females 45-54).
  • Needing more physical stimulation:  About half (52%) agree they “need more physical stimulation these days to get aroused”.  For the group who needs some coaxing, the issue is related to women who don’t feel as sexy as they used to, and men who are dealing with erectile dysfunction.  They are more likely to be taking prescription meds, and report lower energy levels than average.  They are trying though, with an above-average use of sexual lubricants.  Being married and conservative in their sexual style, however, they are not looking to new or perhaps more experimental solutions to activate their libidos.

The Solution?  Plenty Of Ways To Become More Sexually Active And Fulfilled

Are there any obvious and perhaps not-so-obvious ways to help increase sexual encounters?  Here are a few ideas:

  • Men, take the lead!   The gender who complains the most about sexual frequency, also tends to be the initiator, and as such, should be eager to take on the role of getting their partners in the mood, in the mindset, in the setting, and on the road to stimulation.  Both men (43%) and women (48%) say it is the man who gets the ball rolling most of the time.  Furthermore, given that men are more likely than women to say they want to please their sex partners more than they want to please themselves (30% vs. 16% of females); we women say “go to it!”
  • Make plans for sex, treating it like a social occasion.  With sexual encounters being mostly spontaneous between couples (44% say it’s mostly unplanned, another 47% say it’s both unplanned and planned), the chances of sex occurring are left to chance – chance that someone or both even, will be in the mood, chance that no interruptions will take place, etc.  While this prescription is definitely not new, often spoken by sex therapists, it is obviously not being adhered to.
  • Create the right setting.  Women especially (66%), but also men (56%), acknowledge that “If I’m in a romantic setting, I find it much easier to get in the mood”.  While the bedroom is the favourite place to have sex for the majority (men and women, across ages), other rooms in the house show promise (especially the couch, but also the floor or the shower), and they say sex outside (in public, in a vehicle, on beach, in hot tub/pool, or woodsy/camping environment) can also be the right setting for some.
  • Go shopping for some helpful tools.  Sexual aids present another possible solution, because only half (53%) are currently using any type of tool.  Sexual lubricants (36%) are the most common, and are the only type of aid that is used equally across all age groups.  Less common helpers include sex toys (20%), porno movies (17%) and sexual attire (16%), all of which are more commonly used by the under 60 crowd.
  • Try something new. With fewer inhibitions and more confidence in their sexuality, they (71% of men and 52% of women) also claim to be open to trying new things in the sex department, and so they should!  New positions, new environments, new toys, all could stimulate the desire for more.

Are The “Rabbits” Happier Than The “Hares”?  They Are Shining Examples of the motto “Practice Makes Perfect!” They Look Better, Feel Better, Have A Better Life, And Better Love

Let’s zoom in now on those who have appeared to have solved the frequency challenge – the “Rabbits”.  We’ve defined “Rabbits” as those who are engaging in sexual activity weekly or more often.  “Hares” are having sex less often than once a week.  Rabbits represent almost half (46%) of all those surveyed aged 45+.  Rabbits are more common under 60 than over 60 (58% of the 45-49 age group, 55% of the 50-59 age group, 35% of the 60-69 age group and 27% of the 70+ age group), with the average age of a Rabbit being 57 years.  Rabbits are more likely to be male (63% vs. 37% who are women), unmarried and either going steady or dating (67% and 65%, respectively vs. 48% of married folk).  They are more likely to have multiple partners (9% vs. 5% average).  They are more likely to be working, and are slightly more educated, with higher household incomes.  It’s somewhat of a surprise to find that Rabbits are more likely to have kids living with them (40% vs. 22% of Hares).

Rabbits feel good about themselves and their relationships. The “turning point” for a happier relationship and better sex is having sex at least once a month.

  • Female Rabbits are more likely to say they “still have their sexy on” (46%) and Male Rabbits are more likely to say they are “always ready to go” (51%) (compared to the average of 28% of Females & 39% of Males)
  • They are more physically attracted to their partners, underscoring again the importance of looks (score of 8.3 out of 10 compared to 7 out of 10 for those having sex less often than once a month).
  • The rate the overall quality of their relationship higher (8 vs. 7 out of 10 for the less active).  Moreover, the Rabbits rate the quality of communication (8 vs. 7) and emotional intimacy (8 vs. 6) higher than the Hares.

Rabbits are thinking about sex and their desires ahead of their actual encounters.

  • They fantasize more often, and carry out their fantasies more often (76% fantasize weekly+; 50% carry out at least sometimes).

Rabbits are more open-minded about sex and more engaged in keeping things “turned on”.

  • Attitudinally, they admit to being open to trying new things sexually, they are less inhibited now that they’re older, they are comfortable telling their partner what pleasures them, and they say they really make an effort to keep their love life going.
  • Behaviourally, both male and female Rabbits tend to be initiators of sex.  They are less traditional in terms of how and where they have sex.  Their favourite position is more likely to be doggy-style.  While the bedroom is still their favourite place to have sex, followed by on the couch, they are more likely to enjoy the shower compared to those who are less active.  Their “best ever” sexual experience after 40 is more likely to be one that happened outside, or was spontaneous.  Less prevalent but mentioned more often by the most sexually active include:  oral sex, romantic sex, hotel sex, 3-some/orgy and sex with a stranger.
  • The Rabbits are more likely to talk about how to pleasure and have fun sexually.  They are more likely to get educated about sex (read or online).  They are more likely to try new positions, new environments, watch pornographic content, go online to find a date, and participate remotely (phone sex, online chatting).  Surprise finding:  Rabbits are less likely to read romance fiction books as a way of keeping their sex lives turned on.

Rabbits appear to be in better health, and acknowledge sex as a key contributor.

  • Rabbits rate their overall health, energy levels, activity levels and their social life higher than those who are less sexually active.  They are less likely to be overweight, have a lower incidence of high cholesterol or a heart condition, and are less likely to be on any meds (Rx or OTC).
  • Rabbits are more likely to agree that “an active sex life will give help them live longer” (76% vs. 40% who are engaging in sexual activity less often than once a year or never).

Gender Differences Permeate Through To The More Mature Years.  What’s Interesting About “The Great Divide”?

Guys, even as you age, your true colours still show.  But who says you need to be sorry!?  Men continue to want more sex as they age, and ingratiate themselves when their partners aren’t interested.  They are definitely the more open-minded gender, and show a stronger interest in pleasing their partners (than vice versa).  Like it or not, men continue to be attracted by “looks” more than anything else, and by considerably younger women.

Men are ready for action more so than women (48% say they “love sex, always ready to engage” versus 27% of women).  In fact, there is a large gap between the number of men versus women who want to have sex weekly or more often (72% vs. 41%).  This gap persists in terms of the actual frequency of sex as well, with 58% of men and only 34% of women active on a weekly+ basis.

The implication is that men must be getting it via their own means versus with their female partners (the gap represents about 40% of the time that men are “on their own” – whether that means “solo” or with “another person” outside their relationship) [58 – 34 = 24; 24/58 = 41%].

Interestingly, though, the actualization rate between desire and fulfillment is the same for men and women, it’s just that men want sex more often.

Perhaps as a result of this gap in sex with their regular partner, some men have looked to the internet to find a casual sex partner (13% vs. 1% of women).  In fact, a minority believe that “it’s not such a big deal to have a one-night stand outside of their partnerships” (19% vs. 7% of women).

There is more likely to be a single camp for men when it comes to the quantity versus quality debate:  “more sex” is preferred over “better sex” (62% vs. 38%).

Men might argue that their quest for more sex is justified by their belief that “an active sex life will help me live longer” (71% of men vs. 60% of women agree).

Men tend to be more open-minded when it comes to their sexual style (52% vs. 33% of women); with more of them agreeing they are “open to trying new things when it comes to sex” (71% vs. 52% of women).  Men are also considerably more likely to fantasize about sex (72% vs. only 28% of women do so on a weekly or more-often basis).

While the top choice for women is the missionary position, men have a split preference between missionary and the “sitting on top” position.  Men are also more likely than women to like sex from “behind”.

Males tend to be keener to please their sex partners (30% vs. 16% of females).

Male Rabbits are a tough bunch to please.  They rate certain qualities of their relationship (including their sex life) lower than their female Rabbit counterparts.  Specifically, their scores for emotional intimacy, separate identities, physical attraction and their sex life are all lower (by about 1 full point on the 10-point scale) than the corresponding scores of women.  With respect to their sex life specifically, the same issue keeps coming up – a desire for more sex than they already get – male Rabbits scoring sex frequency a 6 out of 10, versus female Rabbits who give it an 8 out of 10).  Male Rabbits also appear less satisfied with the foreplay and playfulness in their sex lives compared to female Rabbits (avg. score of 7 for men and 8 for women).

For men, “looks” really dominate the list of criteria that makes someone sexually appealing (51%).  Moreover, they tend to think they themselves look pretty good, more so compared to women (74% are at least somewhat satisfied with their looks vs. 65% of women).

Consistently, men are more likely to say that both men and women are more attractive in their 40s.  Men are twice as likely as women to be interested in being with someone sexually who is considerably younger (81% vs. 39%).

To put it gracefully, women are less superficial when it comes to who they are attracted to, and continue to be “persuaded” by a romantic setting.

Women view “personality” as equally important to “looks” (26% and 27%).  “Heart”, “brains” and “values” are also more important to women than men.

Women are more likely to find the 50s an age when both men in particular as well as women, are at their most attractive.

Women are almost as interested in someone considerably older as they are in someone considerably younger (30% & 39%, respectively).

Women appreciate and are likely to be more amenable to sex if the setting is right (66% of women compared to 56% of men agree that “If I’m in a romantic setting, I find it much easier to get in the mood”).

There is definitely a “take it or leave it” camp among women when it comes to sex.

Representing 39% of women surveyed, they concede that they could “care less about whether or not they had sex”, and this is twice the incidence compared to men (18%) (increasing to 50% among women aged 65+).

For these women, sex with their partner is at least partly (81%) an obligation, with 57% saying it is mostly an obligation.

They tend to be conservative when it comes to their sexual style (65%) and have not become less inhibited with age (only 45% agree they have).

They would choose “better sex” (61%) over “more sex” (39%).

In fact, most of them would disagree that their “sex life is more satisfying today than it was in their youth” (61%).

But, there is also a group of women who are in the same camp as most men, the one who “loves sex” and would choose quantity over quality.

Representing 27% of women surveyed, they proclaim that they “love it, and I’m always ready to engage” (48% – mind you, the incidence is about half that compared to men). (This reaches a high of 32% among 45-54 year old women.)

They are more likely to be divorced/separated (31%) or widowed (8%) and less likely to be married (48%).  They are more likely to be going steady (14%) or dating (16%).

For these women, sex with their partner is a pleasure they share (94%) as opposed to an obligation (6%).

They are as open-minded about sex as their male counterparts (58%) and the majority (79%) has become less inhibited about sex over the years.

Like their opposite gender, these women would choose “more sex” (73%) over “better sex” (37%).

In fact, most of them would agree that their “sex life is more satisfying today than it was in their youth” (64%) and this is almost twice the rate compared to men who love sex (43%).


What Do the Same-Sex & Bisexual Folk Do Differently? 

This small group, representing 6% of the 45+ population, reports their sexual preference as either homosexual/lesbian (3%) or bisexual (3%).  This is a younger segment within the 45+ crowd (69% are 45-54), with a strong male skew (69%).  They are an interesting cohort to look at in terms of their sexual attitudes and behavior, which is generally more engaged.

  • Sex is more common on their radar.
    • They have a stronger desire and engagement level (75% desire sexual activity weekly or more often, and 61% are engaging that often – versus 56% and 46% of the general population aged 45+).
    • They are more likely to be “always ready to engage” (50% vs. 38% avg.) and are more likely to reach orgasm.
    • They are 2x more likely to fantasize about sex on a daily basis (44% vs. 17% avg.).
    • They are more adventurous, but also more conscientious about protecting themselves.
      • Theirs is a more open-minded sexual style (67% vs. 43% avg.), open to trying new things (2x more likely than average).
      • They are more likely to watch/read porno, engage in phone sex, try new sex environments, and use all types of sexual aids (lubricants, toys, porno, and attire).
      • They are also more likely to engage in less typical sexual positions and environments other than the bedroom.
      • They are 4x more likely to have a sexual fetish (35% vs. 8% avg.).
      • They are 2x more likely to use protection during sexual activity (34% vs. 16% avg.).
    • This group is more comfortable going outside of a primary relationship.
      • It is more common to have multiple sex partners (24% vs. 5% avg.), as well as to think that it is okay to go outside their relationship (3x more likely than average).
      • They are 2x more likely to agree that sex is simply a physical act to feel good, and doesn’t have to have an emotional component.
    • Online is a more popular way to find a partner.
      • They are 2x more likely to have tried internet dating (45% vs. 24% avg.).

Is This An “Online Population”?  Certainly Is, And Equipped With All The Tech Gadgets Too

  • Almost all 45+ own a computer (96%), with many owning a cell phone (60%) and one-third having a smartphone (33%).  GPS devices are also common (39%).  Ipods and ipads are held by a minority (17% and 14%, respectively).  Smartphones (19%) and ipods (11%) are a bit less common among the 65+ crowd, but ipad ownership is just as high (15%).
  • This is an active online population too.  Almost all (94%) are going online at least once a day, with 76% doing so several times a day.  This is consistent across all ages.
  • One-quarter of this population has relied on the internet to get a date or make an acquaintance (particularly the 45-54 crowd at 30%, but so have the 65+ at 17%).  Moreover, two-thirds of those who are currently dating went online to find someone.
  • The most common “searches” were for a companion or long-term partner (53% and 55%, respectively).  About one third were looking for a date or casual sex partner (latter being more common among men at 50% than women at 7%).
  • Interestingly, the quest for a date or a casual sex partner (67% and 60%) tended to be more successful than the search for a companion or long-term partner (52% and 43%, respectively).



The study is quantitative, consisting of online surveys executed with a representative sample of 1,310 English Canadians aged 45 years of age or older.  Interviews were allocated by region, age and gender according to the latest Statistics Canada Census information.  This sample is accurate within plus or minus 3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

‚Online interviewing was conducted from January 7 – 20, 2013.