Wonder what you’ll be like as an older person?
Well, researchers at the University of Chicago can polish your crystal ball. Their study of people aged 57-85…the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project…goes into people’s homes and asks about their health, relationships and sex lives, though how they get honest answers about sexual behavior in face-to-face interviews with a spouse in the next room is a mystery. Their walls must be thicker than mine.
Health Findings: Parfum de Tiger Balm
In the health department, arthritis is one thing these older adults had in common. In the 75+ group, 62.8 % had arthritis, which explains the sweet smell of Tiger Balm in the morning in the homes of older folks — that and our snappy copper bracelets. Among that same older group, though, only 16.8 % reported a heart attack. Is this good news, or have those with heart problems already passed into the Great Beyond, beyond the questions of researchers? It’s a mystery.
I hope this won’t ruin your day, but not all older people said they like to spend time with their partners. Only about 50% of men said they like to spend time with their partners and by the time partnered women got to be over 75, only 47.7 % said they liked to spend time with their honey buns.
But here’s the mystery: The vast majority of people in the study said they were happy in their relationships. Maybe the contradiction just translates into what has become a retirement mantra: I married you for life, dear, but not for lunch. Get the heck out of the house.
Now… The Sex Thing
The younger ones in the study had more lifetime sex partners than the people 75+. Forty-seven percent of women 57-64 had more than two lifetime sex partners, while only 20% of the oldest women had more than two sex partners in their lifetimes.
Well, no surprise here. The fast-lane Boomers among the group had reliable contraceptives and Woodstock. The older ones — well, they were pre-pill and pre-rock and probably lived more in the Tony Bennett lane.
Last, when it comes to sex, men stay true to form. While most women 75 and older said sex is NOT an important part of life, 75% of men over 75 said sex is still important.
So go ahead. Put that picture in your crystal ball — it’s going to be marriage counseling in our walkers.
This column originally appeared in the Huffington Post. It has been updated.