There is so much taboo about sex and older adults. Most people are under the false assumption that when people reach a certain age that they no longer have sex. However, that’s just not true, and many tend to lead healthy sex lives. However, it can also lead to some health problems such as sexually transmitted diseases.
fact, a 2018 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report
looking at 2017 shows there were 2.7 million cases of gonorrhea,
chlamydia and syphilis cases reported among all ages including senior
rates of STDs are especially higher with older adults. According to a
recent study of patients on the AthenaHealth network, patients 60
years of age and older were often seen in office for STIs. Between
2014 and 2017, there was a 23 percent increase in the number of these
patients with syphilis, herpes simplex, gonorrhea, chlamydia,
trichomoniasis and hepatitis B. For the 13 and older group, there
was just an 11 percent increase in these diseases.
to University of Chicago professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and
Medicine-Geriatrics, there does look to be a rise in the number of
older adults with STIs, but the rates of these STDs is still rather
low compared to younger adults, which tend to have higher STI rates.
increase in STIs is found more in men than women, especially for gay
or bisexual men. However, any person, including older people, is
susceptible to get an STD.
are several speculations as to why the rise in STDs amount senior
citizens. One reason may be the sense in time. The senior citizens
now are the same ones who were 18 during the 1968 Summer of Love.
Then, getting a sexually transmitted disease was a serious situation.
After all, people were dying of syphilis.
with antibiotics for common sexually transmitted diseases like
syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia are curable. And, with the birth
control pills eliminating unwanted pregnancies, it means people were
freer to be sexually active. There was a time when an STD could no
longer kill a person.
herpes came about that caused some distressing feelings but wasn’t
really life or death.
the older generation suddenly becoming single again, they are
becoming sexually active once more with more partners – in a time
of HIV and other serious STDs. Most are still thinking about what
the medical landscape was like before and not what it is now. It’s
the attitude the older generation has about STDs that may be lending
to the increase in STD rates among their generation.
is a generation that didn’t date during the HIV/AIDS crisis; they
still have a belief that gonorrhea is the most common infection. They
don’t realize that even gonorrhea is a bad thing because of the
potential to become a superbug (as noted in some cases where drugs
won’t cure it). Plus, all the other new STDs emerging such as
Trichomoniasis and HIV that can affect them – they don’t see this
as a major concern for them. This means they’re less likely to get
screened for these and other diseases.
reason for the rise is the lack of screening. When a patient comes
in for their annual well-care checkup, Medicare is only looking for
vision, memory, hearing, propensity to falling down, etc. Nothing
Medicare asks for looks at the adult’s sex life. Researchers agree
that putting one’s head in the sand about senior citizens do not
have sex is contributing to the STD crisis. And, not routinely
testing them for diseases is only going to lead to even more STD
cases among them.
doctors don’t take the time to listen to their patients’
concerns, focusing on only the more important things of a visit such
as high blood pressure and diabetes, etc. No preventative measures
are being discussed that could protect them from sexually transmitted
diseases as well as other things.
worse, the insufficient funding to the public health infrastructure
makes it harder for the American public to attain the preventative
information they need including senior citizens.
possible reason for the rise in the number of cases is the newer
drugs the FDA has approved to treat sexual dysfunction in both men
and women. Older groups are having a lot more sex than they did 30
years ago thanks to these drugs. Couple that with the lack of
information and screening, and it’s not that big of a surprise for
the spike in STD cases.
important to remember that even though a person is older, it doesn’t
mean they’re not having sex. A bedridden person can still have sex
if they are still coherent and can give consent. Just because a
person is old does not mean they are not having sex.
best way to reduce the rate of STIs among senior citizens is to give
them information – arming them with the information to protect
themselves. This means making them aware that they also need to use
condoms in all sexual encounters whether their partner is young or
old. Age is not a protection against a sexually transmitted disease;
can be found for both men and women. The female condom may be better
for older adults, as male condoms are designed to be put on when the
man has a full erection. This typically doesn’t happen for older
men until penetration.
many cases, there is a lack of accessibility for condoms for older
adults. The younger generation can turn to a university health system
or a locker room to get. However, most adult residence homes don’t
have this option. Either they are embarrassed to ask someone to
purchase condoms for them, or they have sex without a condom anyway.
are particularly at risk for catching an STI as their vagina dries
out as they get older. When having sex, it can cause the tissue to
tear and leave minor abrasions. This increases their chance of
getting an STD like HIV. If a woman is using aromatase inhibitors,
this can increase the tear chances.
citizens who develop new symptoms and are having sex need to talk to
their doctor and get tested for an STD. Even if the test is positive,
there are several very effective treatments for these STIs. While
prevention and knowledge are better, senior citizens should not be
ignoring their symptoms for the sake of embarrassment of being
sexually active at their age.
Here’s what we've been up to recently.
It was four years ago when Lora Ivanova and Ursula Hessenflow were talking at a Los Angeles café about the L.A. dating scene. The biggest aggravation they had was the ability to talk about safe sex when first meeting someone. How could one deal with the discomfort of asking someone they just met if they were tested for STDs?
The CDC reports of STDs have increased for four straight years, hitting a new record high. However, Northwestern has yet to change how it approaches sexually transmitted diseases for its students’ health.