Diseases such as diabetes or prostate cancer, as well as a partner's physical limitations or lack of interest, were among the main reasons men ceased having sex. Side effects from medications like antidepressants and beta-blockers also played a role in diminished sexual activity — a factor that Eric De Jonge, M.D., director of geriatrics at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C., says is sometimes overlooked by physicians.
"Medications can have an effect on sexual function, and it's important for doctors to be aware of this as a quality-of-life issue. Older patients also need to talk to their doctors about medications and their side effects," he says.
De Jonge, however, says the importance of sexual activity should not be overstated.
"Yes, 49 percent of the men in the study said it had some importance, but the majority of men don't see it as very important. It's nice to have, especially if you're healthy, but not high on the priority list," particularly when compared with overcoming a severe illness or other major life event, he says.
De Jonge also notes that the study only involved men. "My next question would be, how do their partners feel? And how do you create healthy relationships in people this age so that both can be satisfied?"
Candy Sagon writes about health and nutrition for the AARP Bulletin.