It remains an unmentionable topic amongst family members and grandparents alike. The subject matter is typically excluded at the dinner table, and at family gatherings. Pertinent inquiries are strictly forbidden while visiting grandma in the retirement home. Yet, the fact remains, older people are having sex more often and in most cases without protection. This is fine in a monogamous relationship, but women outnumber men and therefore males have multiple partner opportunities, which render the elderly a high risk for sexually transmitted diseases.
Today’s active seniors are not slowing down in numerous areas, including sex. For younger people, however, the mere thought of geriatric sex congers up images of ghastly embraces and anomalous foreplay. Still, one of the fastest growing segments of our society for transmitting sexual diseases, belongs to seniors fifty years of age and older. When you mix retirement communities, Viagra, and numerous lonely seniors, you get arousal and reawakened passions, which previously remained inactive. Regrettably, these sexually active seniors are not just spreading joy and pleasure, but also spreading Herpes,Syphilis, Gonorrhea, and HIV/AIDS.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “Older people are at increasing risk for HIV/AIDS and other STDs. A growing number of older people now have HIV/AIDS. About 19 percent of all people with HIV/AIDS in this country are age 50 and older. Because older people don’t get tested for HIV/AIDS on a regular basis, there may be even more cases than currently known.”
There are numerous rationalizations used by older people as to why they do not protect themselves against exposure to sexual diseases and HIV. Commonly, elderly women have experienced menopause, so pregnancy is not a concern. Most seniors never used condoms in the past and are less likely to use them today. Unless obvious symptoms occur, victims of STD’s may not be aware that a problem exists and intimate behavior may remain unchecked.
Regardless, the spread of STD’s in the elderly has become a serious issue, one that has gotten the full attention of the medical community. Doctors agree that senior citizens have little exposure to sexual education information, and most health care specialists have not taken the matter seriously or they feel uncomfortable discussing this topic with their patients. This has to change sooner than later. Otherwise, this vulnerable sector in our society will continue to be stricken with diseases that could have been prevented.
Kenneth W. Hallcom, Ph.D.