Sex, Seniors, and STIs

Confession time!  I secretly love reading AARP magazines. It has honestly become my new guilty pleasure.  I remember the first time my mom got a magazine in the mail. I’m pretty sure her AARP card was the highlight of her turning 50.  When I saw the magazine I thought this isn’t for me, it probably just tell her where she can get discounts (and believe me she knows where she can get them).  One day she told me “Shemeka you need to read this” so I did.  Apparently there is a hidden gem in there called the sex over 50 column (Google it). Ever since I read the first set of questions and answers in that magazine I’ve been hooked.

I lived in Florida for two years (GO NOLES)…the land of retirement communities. When most people think of retirement communities they usually think of fun in the sun, bingo, golf, boating, line dances, possibly some jello and pudding, but I think of STIs. I mean let’s be real, it may be weird for you to think about your grandparents having sex, but one day we will all get old and will still be sexual beings.

Unfortunately, the rates of sexually transmitted infections among the elderly is constantly growing. Between 2007 and 2011 chlamydia infections among Americans 65 and older increased by 31% and syphilis by 52%.

How did this happen?  I’m glad you asked.  Several writers and researchers believe it is a one or a combo of the following:

  1. Medications that treat erectile dysfunction have allowed men to have sex at later ages.
  2. Older adults are less likely to perceive themselves to be at risk because women are post-menopausal and cannot get pregnant.
  3. Sex education wasn’t offered when they were younger.
  4. Men in this generation typically “call the shots” so women may feel less likely to express their wants and needs.  COMMUNICATION IS KEY!
  5. Their dating pool is shrinking.  As a result less men are available so women may have risky unprotected sex to please their partner.
  6. Seniors are embarrassed to talk about sex with their doctors because they could not talk about it when they were growing up.
  7. Many doctors do not test seniors for STIs as a standard exam.

What now?

-There needs to be sexual health educators in local retirement and senior living communities.  They should discuss signs of STIs and how it may complicate other existing chronic diseases, the proper use of condoms, and sexual communication with partners.

-We need to go back to the basics! We cannot assume that Seniors know how to protect themselves when many of them never received “the talk” or sex education in their lifetime.

-Doctors should not assume that seniors are not sexual beings.  Doctors should inquire about seniors’ sexual activity and encourage STI testing.


1 thought on “Sex, Seniors, and STIs”

  1. I love that you wrote about this topic! I’m actually completing a class social marketing project about lowering the rates of STI’s in older adults.

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