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"It is time that our society's traditional thinking that disconnects old age and sex be revisited," says Ruth S.

Jacobowitz, author of "150 Most-Asked Questions About Midlife Sex, Love, and Intimacy." "We're all living longer, so our needs to relate sexually are lasting longer." But older Americans who are sexually active face health issues, too. The NIA doesn't break down transmission rates among this demographic -- for example, through drug use, heterosexual or homosexual contact -- but the institute does point out that older adults in general tend to know less than younger Americans about how HIV/AIDS is transmitted and the necessity of using condoms.

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But many older singles -- some of whom have already been down the aisle -- aren't looking to exchange their single status for a band of gold.

"We are not aiming for great changes in the second half of life, but looking for fulfillment in who we are now," says Sharon Romm, a Seattle-based psychiatrist and author of "Dating After 50: Negotiating the Minefields of Midlife Romance." "Not everyone wants another marriage.

Someone might want a companion for going to concerts on Saturday night and not much more. "Many over 50 are no longer looking for that one person, that 'soul mate'," says Dr.

Others might absolutely want -- or not want -- sex as part of another relationship." Dating dynamics More than a third of Americans over 50 are divorced, widowed, separated or have never married, according to a tally of statistics released in 2006 by the U. Philip Belove, a marriage and family therapist based in Bellows Falls, Vermont, who specializes in midlife relationships issues.

"If you have a life that you like and things you want to do and interests to pursue, maybe you don't want to sacrifice some of those priorities in order to be someone else's soul mate." This sentiment doesn't just apply to confirmed bachelors, either.

For many women, their careers and hobbies rank higher on their priority list than do romantic relationships, according to Belove.

As Margaret Murchie, a 52-year-old realtor in Honolulu, Hawaii, a self-proclaimed independent woman who dates but has never been married, puts it simply, "They have to make me happier than I am now on my own." A 2003 AARP study of 3,501 singles aged 40 to 69 showed that about one-third of those surveyed were either in a relationship or dating one person exclusively.

A comparable percentage had dated one or more people in the previous three years.

But of those who were dating, just 8 percent listed "to find someone to marry" as their reason for doing so.

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