Dearie: There’s a lot more at stake here than just sex. I suppose that having sex when you’re old is a good thing, but getting involved in a relationship at this stage of life? If they remain in a relationship but they don’t get married, are they committed enough to each other if one of them becomes ill or frail? What about money and inheritance? How do their children feel about the relationship? I think that matters. Basically, I think this gentleman needs to think beyond just the having sex question.

Barbara: I don’t see any problem having sex at an older age, though older adults are still at risk for contracting HIV. Everyone should have protected sex. That said, this gentleman wants to know how to raise the topic. I say, be honest and open. Say what you mean. Is having sex part of a mutual enjoyment of each other and an extension of your friendship? Or is it more simply about physical contact? Sex brings closeness and pleasure at a time in life when this may have been absent for a while. Whether young or old, going slowly and making sure each partner feels secure and comfortable is most important.

The question of getting involved in a long-term relationship late in life is a good one and each person in the relationship should ask him or herself what it is that they want at this time in life. Companionship? Sex? Someone to take care of or someone to take care of me? As in any relationship, being clear about your own wishes and sharing them honestly is the best way to go forward.