There are a lot of assumptions about sex and aging out there; mostly that people just stop having sex once they reach a certain age, a retirement from the bedroom if you will. Let’s be honest, there is no such thing as being too old for sex. While there are certain sexual challenges that are more likely to occur with old age, a lot of those things are manageable and plenty of senior citizens are enjoying perfectly full sex lives.
According to data from the CDC, there was a significant increase in STI rates in people over 65 between the years 2010 and 2014. The rates of gonorrhea hopped up over 90 percent, syphilis by 65 percent, and chlamydia by 52 percent. By 2015 these rates went up even more.The simple fact is that older people are having plenty of sex (with multiple partners). Though this is wonderful, the clear issue is that they are not using as much protection as they should.Who can blame them, most older people are not at risk of getting pregnant or impregnating anyone so condom use sort of falls by the wayside. It’s like sexual freedom in a whole new way if you don’t count all those infections and diseases… but we need to.
Since there was such a significant spike in the STI rate, you could argue that it used to be less likely that an older person would contract an STI. In fact, the STI rates have been increasing in all age groups, not just the older ones. That’s something that everyone needs to be aware of for their current and future sexual health. Anytime a strain of something becomes antibiotic resistant it increases the likelihood that it will be passed on, and it happens frequently. The misuse of antibiotics is blamed for a lot of this. The overprescribing of antibiotics means that people take them more often and can build up a resistance to them. In turn, their ability to work gets watered down.
Even when antibiotics are working on infections at full-strength, there are still some holes where things can slip through. Getting treated for STI’s can be straightforward in the sense that you pop a pill or take a shot to the butt, but there’s a waiting period where the infection is still active and can be passed on before the antibiotics go to work.
What Should We Do?
Getting re-tested is often the only way to know for sure that it’s gone. Many STI‘s don’t even show symptoms. Re-testing, of course, requires a trip back to the doctor or the clinic plus waiting on test results yet again. Meanwhile, people are generally having sex again, and potentially spreading and passing things back and forth. Add to that the fact that a lot of people don’t even know that they’re carrying something due to the low symptom thing. It’s complicated enough between two people in a relationship, but add a few more folks to the fun and it’s not surprising that some of these infections have taken on a life of their own.
Clearly, undiagnosed HIV is an issue. Older people are more likely to be diagnosed later in the infection than young people are, which means both that they’re more likely to pass it on if they’re sexually active and also that they’re more likely to experience more damage to the body. Older people are more likely to write off new symptoms as “old age,” as well as assuming that their HIV risk decreases as they age. In reality, their risks are exactly the same as the risks faced by their children and grandchildren.
Obviously, the concern here is safe sex, not sex in general.
The AARP actually encourages people to “have more sex after 50” on account of the health benefits. Having sex can lead to deeper sleep, be a form of cardio activity, reduce stress, reduce pain from headaches, and even make people look younger. Increased blood flow plus the release of feel-good hormones does a body good. Not to mention the fact that many people are having sex because they’re enjoying someone that they’re in a relationship with. Emotional bonds are good for everyone but they’re particularly crucial for older people who might be living more isolated lives since retirement.
The thing is, safe sex doesn’t seem to be addressed much in nursing homes, and it absolutely should be. According to a survey by The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, only one-quarter of nursing homes have any intimacy policies. That doesn’t mean that the other three-quarters have an anything goes vibe, it means they simply aren’t talking about it.
Clearly, these are adults making consensual decisions to do the deed or not in these nursing homes, but perhaps they could use the same kind of sex education that we got in our younger years.
Or at least better access to condoms.
“HIV/AIDS.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 03 Feb. 2017. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.
“Sex at the Nursing Home-Why Not?” Sex at the Nursing Home-Why Not? | AMDA. N.p., 15 July 2016. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.
Scott, Paula Spencer. “Sex After 50 – Health Benefits of Sex.” AARP. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.
National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.