Intimacy is an important part of anyone’s life, no matter what age. And while we might not want to think of our loved ones as sexual beings, studies show that seniors are still having sex well into their old age. But unfortunately, along with this information is the news that STI transmission amongst the elderly is becoming a growing problem.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported a significant increase in STIs for adults 65 and over. Between 2011 and 2014, Chlamydia infections have increased by 52%, Syphilis infections by 65%, and Gonorrhea infections by more than 90%!
Why the sudden increase?
One of the main reasons is that people, on average, are living longer lives – and as a result are still sexually active in their later years. A survey in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that about 53% of the people (over 65) surveyed said they were sexually active.
In addition, many of the elderly population today came to maturity during the sexual revolution of the 1960’s and 70’s, when the birth control pill was readily available – so they have little knowledge of condoms. According to the 2010 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behaviour, older adults from this era have the lowest condom rate of all other age groups. They have also had very little (if any) sexual education, so they don’t have the knowledge of “safe sex” practices.
What can I do?
While a number of organizations (including the Public Health Agency of Canada) are working to help community organizers, health professionals, and other people who work with seniors with the resources to help educate seniors and mitigate the spread of STI’s, ultimately it’s up to you as the care-giver to have the awkward conversation.
If your loved one is back on the dating scene, it’s important to talk to them about safe sex, and how to protect themselves. It may be uncomfortable, but given the weakened immune system of seniors, and the possibility of STIs complicating other existing conditions, it’s necessary to just bite the bullet and have “the talk”.
Do you have a senior who’s started dating again? How did you broach the subject? Let us know in the comments.