But as we age, sexual health issues – such as painful intercourse or erectile dysfunction – are more common. Fortunately, new treatments and therapies have made it easier for both men and women to have fulfilling sexual relationships at any age. Many seniors find that sex is more enjoyable than ever, and nearly half would like to have it more frequently.
But there’s one important concern many people overlook: sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can occur at any age. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that STIs are increasing rapidly among adults over the age of 65. Gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia cases among seniors has risen steadily over the past decade, with a 20% increase from 2015-2016 alone. While those infections can all be cured with antibiotics, HIV – which is being diagnosed in more seniors every year – cannot.
What’s driving these increases? Simply put, most seniors aren’t practicing safe sex. With the risk of pregnancy behind them, just 5% of older men and 7% of women not in committed, monogamous relationships use condoms. And, since less than half of them talk to their doctor about their sexual health and practices, many STIs are going undiagnosed and treated, which can lead to serious complications. While those with multiple sex partners are at the highest risk, anyone can contract and infection or disease with just one unprotected encounter.
The statistics may be scary, but the good news is that healthy and safe sex is possible at any age with a few simple precautions. If you’ve had unprotected sex in the past year with a new partner (or partners), you should be tested and treated for any infections. After that, always use a condom to help keep you and your partner safe. Finally, be open with your doctor about your sex life and ask if there are any other steps you should take to stay safe and healthy.
This article first appeared in the February 2019 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.