BACKGROUND: With limited information regarding fertility and sexual activity in the older population, men's behaviour, attitudes and concerns were explored in a representative population of middle-aged and older men using the Men in Australia, Telephone Survey (MATeS). METHODS: A stratified random national sample of 5990 men participated in a standardized computer-assisted telephone interview. Equal numbers in the age strata 40-49, 50-59, 60-69 and >or=70 years were surveyed with findings census-standardized to the national population. Broad aspects of men's health and well-being, including reproductive health, were explored. RESULTS: The majority of men were sexually active in the last 12 months (age-standardized proportion, 78.3%) with approximately 37% of men aged >or=70 years still continuing sexual activity. Overall, 12.2% of men had never fathered children, of whom most (7.7%) had chosen not to have children. Questioning on failed attempts to produce a pregnancy suggested an involuntary infertility rate of 7.6%. The age-standardized vasectomy rate was 25.1%, with 5.6% of vasectomized men having no children. Although 9.2% of vasectomized men regretted sterilization, only 1.4% had undergone vasectomy reversal. CONCLUSIONS: Continuing sexual activity, fertility and contraception needs in middle-aged and older men suggests that education and service delivery must be more appropriately directed to an ageing population.