Enjoying a healthy sex life is not just for people under 50, say two groups of women surveyed about how they feel about making sensual pleasure a priority in their lives.

It’s common to assume that people—especially women—lose interest in sex as they grow older, but new research conducted by Holly N. Thomas, MD, at the University of Pittsburgh, says that for some women, that’s just not the case.

“We were surprised to find a group of women who said that sex actually got better for them as they got older,” said Thomas of the survey results she presented at the 2016 Annual meeting of the North American Menopause Society.

Not only did women of a certain age enjoy sex, they felt it was still an important part of life, according to additional research presented by Sheryl Kingsberg, PhD, a professor of biology and psychiatry at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.

Comfort and Confidence

The majority of the 39 women, ages 46 to 59, surveyed by Thomas attributed their increased enjoyment of sex to the things that make life better for many of us as we grow older—improved self-confidence, better communication skills, and a sense of being comfortable in their own skin, along with a greater knowledge of what worked for them. Thirty-six percent of the women surveyed were black, 13 percent were premenopausal, 44 percent were in perimenopause and 28 percent were not sure.

While the women also reported some negative associations with age, such as decreased responsiveness, vaginal dryness and lower libido, the study participants said they dealt with these issues by modifying their expectations about sex and adjusting their priorities to “maintain or even increase overall sexual satisfaction.”

Many of those who faced sexual challenges, mentioned that their partners were experiencing problems such as erectile dysfunction (ED) and low libido. Some of the women also said they had much higher levels of sexual desire than their partners—the exact opposite of what most people think of older couples.

Applying the wisdom and creativity that comes with age, the women said they found ways to adapt, including the use of vaginal lubricants, lengthening foreplay, incorporating other types of sex besides intercourse, trying new sexual positions and encouraging the use of ED treatments in their partners.

Relationship Satisfaction

Kinesberg’s larger study (505 women, ages 40 to 75 and up) supported Thomas’ findings to some degree, but primarily for women under 70. The majority of that group reported that: “sexual activity was important to their overall quality of life,” except for the women in their 70s where the majority disagreed.

The overall finding from the larger group was that sex was still important to women as they aged, but it was less of a determinant of overall relationship satisfaction than in earlier years.

Together, the two studies suggest that the key to sensual pleasure in later life is being flexible, imaginative and savoring the quality of our sexual experiences over the quantity.

Getty: Daniel Grill