How Do Women and Men Negotiate Sex in Later Life Relationships? A Qualitative Analysis of Data from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging

Hayley James, James Nazroo, Georgia Chatzi, Paul Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Later life relationships and in particular the role of sex within them, have often been neglected in research due to assumptions of decline and sexlessness. We contribute to a growing body of work which counters these stereotypes by examining sexual scripts within the socio-cultural context of later life relationships. We analyzed open-text comments from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA) collected as part of a self-completion questionnaire. In Wave 6, 1065 participants (M age 67.5, SD 9.6 years) and in Wave 8, 922 participants (M age 69.1, SD 9.01 years) responded to an open-text box question. Across both waves, 38% of respondents were men and 62% were women. The analysis used a coding template developed from existing literature and adjusted to accommodate emerging topics. A gendered analysis of the interrelated topics of relationships, sex and sexuality resulted in themes which illustrate similarities and differences in how men and women negotiate sex in later life relationships. The findings confirm that sex remains integral to intimacy in later life relationships for many men and women. However, they also demonstrate that norms of age and gender interact to shape sex and relationship practices in later life. These norms limit some people’s experiences, for example, preventing them from seeking new relationships, as well as creating challenges for intimacy in partnerships. These findings extend the theoretical understanding of relationships and sex in later life.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalThe Journal of Sex Research
Early online date31 Aug 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Author(s). This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

Funding Information
The English Longitudinal Study of Aging is funded by the National Institute on Aging (grant R01AG7644) and by a consortium of UK government departments coordinated by the Economic Research Council (ESRC) and the Office for National Statistics.


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