When we think of sexually transmitted diseases, we tend to focus on young adults. After all, they are the group that has active sex lives, right? Actually, no.
As many senior citizens know, there is no such thing as a ‘sexpiration’ date, and many seniors have active, regular sex throughout their lives. In fact, a study performed at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found that many seniors are still enjoying intimacy with their partners—statistics show that 84 percent of men and 62 percent of seniors reported having sex with a partner in the last year.
However, other alarming research also shows that senior citizens are now the most at-risk group for sexually transmitted diseases. In the last decade, the number of seniors with an STD has tripled, and recent statistics also show that AIDS has increased in people over the age of 50.
What can account for this increase? Part of it could be that modern medicine has helped older individuals to have better, more fulfilling sex lives well into their golden years. However, this increase of sex could also lead to an increase of partners, particularly if an individual becomes widowed and begins dating again.
While it is wonderful that medical advancements can help improve intimacy among older people, the reality is that these individuals didn’t grow up in an era of safer sex practices. They didn’t grow up with the AIDS scare or receive free condoms in school or learn about safer sex practices on the nightly news. As such, they might have a harder time adopting these practices or negotiating for condom use.
Most of all, senior citizens might not realize the grave risk involved with unsafe sex and the impact that STDs could have on their health. Any infection, even a minor one that can be cleared up with antibiotics, is more risky for older individuals, especially if they already have existing health issues. Not to mention, many of these people might not be aware of the signs and symptoms of STDs, and they might be embarrassed to bring such concerns up with their general practitioner.
The good news is that studies such as these help to illuminate the importance of safer sex practices, even among older individuals. They also help to get a dialogue started between doctor and patient, as well as among couples of all ages. Remember, regardless of your age, you should always practice safer sex, including using condoms during intercourse, and condoms/dental dams during oral sex. Your health is too important to risk.