Up to 40 per cent of 80-year-olds are sexually active, new research suggests.

More than half of those aged between 65 and 80 say being intimate is important for their quality of life, a study found today.

According to the Daily Mail, some 73 percent of older people are satisfied with their sex lives, however, 18 percent of elderly men have taken medication to improve their performance between the sheets in the past two years, the research adds.

Dr Alison Bryant, from the elderly person's charity AARP, which sponsored the study, said: "This just confirms that the need for and interest in sexual intimacy doesn't stop at a certain age."

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Study author Dr Erica Solway, from the University of Michigan, added: "Sexual health among older adults doesn't get much attention but is linked closely to quality of life, health and well-being."

Age and gender affects older people's interest in sex

Results further suggest that, of those in excellent, very good or good health, 45 percent are sexually active compared to just 22 per cent who are in fair or poor health.

People between the ages of 65 and 70 are nearly twice as likely to be sexually active as those in their 70s, with one-third of these younger people being extremely or very interested in being intimate, compared to just 19 per cent of septuagenarians.

Older women are less likely to be sexually active with only 31 per cent getting intimate compared to 51 percent of men of the same age.

Half of men aged 65-to-80 are extremely or very interested in sex versus just 12 per cent of women.

Need for more open conversations about elderly people' sex lives

Findings also show that just three per cent of elderly women have taken drugs or supplements to boost their sexual function.

Some 17 per cent of older adults have spoken to their doctors about sexual health in the past two years and are usually the ones to bring the topic up.

The researchers believe their findings highlight the need for healthcare professionals to talk more openly with elderly patients about sexual health.

Dr Solway said: "It's important for older adults and the clinicians who care for them to talk about these issues and about how age-related changes in physical health, relationships, lifestyles and responsibilities such as caregiving, affect them."

The researchers surveyed 1,002 people aged between 65 and 80 on their sex lives via an online questionnaire.

The findings were published on the National Poll on Health Ageing website.

Having sex once a week slows ageing in women

This comes after research released last month suggested having sex at least once a week slows ageing in women - even if they do not enjoy being intimate.

Being active between the sheets increases the length of women's telomeres, a study by the University of California, San Francisco, found.

These 'cap' the end of DNA strands, with longer lengths being associated with slower ageing, longer life spans and improved overall health.

Women's telomeres lengthen with regular love making regardless of whether they are sexually satisfied in their relationship, the research adds.

Researchers believe sex may aid ageing in women by dampening stress and boosting their immune system.