Older Adults’ Coping Strategies With Changes in Sexual Functioning: Results From Qualitative Research

Liat Ayalon, Ateret Gewirtz-Meydan, Inbar Levkovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Research has consistently documented changes in sexual functioning as people age. Aim: To examine the ways older men and women cope with changes in sexual functioning. Methods: In-depth interviews with 47 Israelis over the age of 60 were conducted and analyzed thematically. Main Outcome Measure: The main outcomes of interest in this study were the coping strategies employed by older men and women to address changes in their sexuality. Results: 7 coping strategies that were differentially employed by men and women were identified. These strategies were classified along a continuum of internal (involving only the person being affected by the change) vs external (involving others) strategies. External strategies involved other people and services, such as a primary care provider or a counselor, whereas internal strategies were confined to intrapsychic experiences, such as an acceptance of the fact that sex was no longer part of life. Other strategies, such as sexual fantasies about having an affair or the use of pornography to stimulate desire, were classified along the 2 poles. Most individuals used >1 strategy. Differences by gender are noted. Clinical Implications: The techniques identified reflect to some degree the medicalization and marketization of sexuality among older adults, but potentially also allude to somewhat more liberal views of sexuality in contemporary society. Strength & Limitations: The subjective nature of this study and the open-ended perspective employed in the analysis allow for better appreciation of the coping strategies used by older adults. There is potentially a selection bias with those individuals who feel more comfortable discussing sexuality, participating in the study, and others refraining from such a discussion. Conclusion: The older adults interviewed in this study tended to equate sexual functioning with sexual intercourse. Ayalon L, Gewirtz-Meydan A, Levkovich I. Older Adults’ Coping Strategies With Changes in Sexual Functioning: Results From Qualitative Research. J Sex Med 2019;16:52–60.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-60
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Sexual Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was supported by a grant from the Israel National Institute for Health Policy Research.A total of 47 older adults (24 men, 23 women) were interviewed as part of a larger study funded by the Israel National Institute for Health Policy Research. Inclusion criteria were individuals over the age of 60 who speak Hebrew or English. A range of experiences was searched for and therefore, individuals of different marital and socioeconomic statuses were interviewed. The sampling frame did not specifically seek individuals who suffered from sexual dysfunction and did not limit the sample to heterosexual individuals. Respondents were recruited through referrals from physicians, who advertised the study in their clinics (n = 28) and through personal contacts, relying on social media and word of mouth (n = 19). Demographic information (outlined in Table 1) was gathered based on self-report.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 International Society for Sexual Medicine


  • Heteronormative
  • Sex
  • Sexual Functioning
  • Tradition
  • Viagra

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Endocrinology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Urology


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