Women may feel the most sexy, confident, and ready to get busy between the sheets during their mid- to late-20s, but they soon find a decrease in their desire for sexual arousal with old age. Although physical changes in the body, like menopause, may affect sexual activity, there is no age limit on sex for women. According to a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, midlife women who enjoy the thrill of sex and view it as important, are most likely to be sexually active with old age, too, despite menopause.

As women age, their bodies change, along with their sexual organs, possibly causing older women to become aroused more slowly than younger ones. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada says, lower estrogen levels can cause the vagina to take longer to swell and lubricate when a woman is sexually aroused because the vagina is less elastic. Therefore, triggers for sexual excitement become more specifically sexual and may require intimate body contact and manual stimulation for older women. However, older women who remain sexually active, begin to retain the ability to have normal orgasms, regardless of the physical changes taking place.

Typically, to measure female sexual function, doctors use the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI), to diagnose sexual problems and dysfunction experienced by women. The index consists of 19 questions about arousal, orgasm, vaginal lubrication, and pain during intercourse. Although this index has been used to determine if a woman is “sexually dysfunctional,” a team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, believe these tests fail to accurately predict sexual function in women. Rather, they suggest a woman’s perception of sex — whether it’s important or unimportant — can serve as an indicator of sexual potency for females.

A total of 602 women, between the ages of 40 and 65, were recruited for the study starting in 2005. The female participants were asked to report if they were sexually active and how important they felt sex was in their lives. After four years, the researchers classified 354 of the 602 participants as sexually active. At year eight of the study, 85 percent of these women, between the ages of 48 and 73, remained sexually active. For this group, being “active” meant that they had sex at least once in the last six months.

Those who rated sex as important were three times as likely to remain sexually active compared with women who rated it as unimportant. Overall, 10 percent of the female participants said sex was extremely important to them, 50 percent said it was moderately important, and about 20 percent said it was not very important, according to the Daily Mail. The rest of the women did not answer the question.

"In contrast to prior research, we found that most sexually active midlife women remain sexually active," concluded the study. The researchers found the myth that women lose interest in sex as they age is not true. In the study, the FSFI test was not found to be associated with maintenance of sexual activity, implying that quality of sex does not impact whether a woman will continue to have sex overtime.

The study highlights women who have always enjoyed an active sex life — and those who say sex is important to them — keep on having it in their 60s and later. “There’s this popular public perception that as women age, sex becomes unimportant, and that women just stop having sex as they get older. From our study, it looks like most women continue to have sex during midlife,” said Dr. Holly Thomas, lead author of the study, The Independent reported. The critical factor was how well women perceived having sex in the first place.

Frequent arousal and orgasms can continue for women even in old age, despite the physical, and hormonal challenges presented. The need for intimacy is ageless, and having sex over 50 can provide mental and physical benefits — burn fat, brain to release endorphins, and reduce anxiety — for those who are sexually active. The key to great sex for older women, and men, may be finding what is pleasurable for them, and simply what works in the bedroom.

Source: Chang CCH, Dillon S, Hess R, Thomas HN. Sexual Activity in Midlife Women: Importance of Sex Matters. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2014.