Older adults are having more sex than ever before, which is great news! A healthy sex life is fun and keeps us young, engaged and excited at any age.
With older adults living healthier for longer, higher divorce rates, online dating, and sexual performance medications and treatments, sexual activity is soaring among older adults.
However, older adults are also being infected by sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) more than ever. According to a study performed by the Centers for Disease Control, rates of Gonorrhea and Syphilis more than doubled for seniors over the age of 65 between 2012 and 2016. Another study done by Athenahealth, saw a 23 percent rise in STD's in patients over the age of 60.
Here are just a few tips to limit your risk of getting an STD, no matter your age.
Safe Sex for Seniors
Talk About It
Before engaging in oral, vaginal or anal sex, discuss your sexual histories with your partner. While you may be embarrassed or shy to discuss the topic, there's really no need. It's critical to your health and there's much less stigma surrounding the topic than there was when you first started dating decades ago.
While it may not be relevant to ask who your partner had sex with and how often, it's absolutely ok to ask your partner whether they've had any STD's, been tested and how recently.
The most effective way to protect yourself from STD's is to get tested before having unprotected sex. Even if a partner looks healthy and vibrant and their genitalia has no obvious signs of infection, it doesn't prove in any way that he or she doesn't have an STD. The only way to know for certain, is to get tested together and to see each other's written results.
Some couples may decide to have unprotected oral sex before getting tested, believing you can't contract an STD if there's no penetration. That's not the case at all. In fact, you can get chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes and HPV from oral sex.
If you're engaging in regular sexual activity with multiple partners, or you're having sex with a partner in a non-exclusive relationship, you should get tested regularly, perhaps every few months and immediately if symptoms emerge.
Remember, many (but not all) STD's can be treated effectively if detected early enough. Don't be embarrassed to speak to your doctor regarding the different tests you should be taking and the frequency with which you should be taking them given your level of sexual activity.
Use Condoms - No Glove, No Love
If you're going to engage in vaginal or anal sex, use condoms until both you and your partner have been tested and it's confirmed that you're in an exclusive relationship. A lot of recently divorced or widowed older adults are not in the habit of using condoms or make the false assumption that people "their age" aren't at risk of STD's. That's no longer the case, as the statistics above have shown.
Lubrication can help avoid micro-tears to the vaginal walls and penis, reducing the risk of contracting an STD or getting an infection. Using a water based lubricant, such as KY Jelly, can also help reduce the risk of a condom breaking, which can also reduce the risk of contracting an STD.
Most Common STD's in Older Adults
|Herpes Simplex||Contact with saliva, genital secretions, or skin of the infected area.||May not show symptoms, burning, itching, redness, painful lesions.||No cure, but some medications can shorten outbreak periods|
|Chlamydia||Transmitted during vaginal, anal or oral sex. Man does not need to ejaculate to infect his partner.||May not show symptoms, some experience burning, itching, swelling.||Curable with antibiotics|
|Gonorrhea||Transmitted during vaginal, anal or oral sex.||Rash on genitalia, burning while peeing, anal, vaginal or rectal discharge.||Curable with antibiotics|
|HPV||Transmitted through intimate vaginal, anal or oral skin to skin contact.||Warts on genitals, mouth or throat.||Vaccine, no cure, but some medications can alleviate symptoms|
|Hepatitis B||Transmitted by blood, semen, vaginal secretions during vaginal, anal or oral sex.||Abdominal pain, dark urine, fever, joint pain, jaundice, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue.||Vaccination, anti-viral medications|
|Trichomoniasis||Vaginal, anal or oral sex. Man does not need to ejaculate to infect his partner.||May not show symptoms, itching, burning redness of genitals, discomfort peeing or during ejaculation, discharge.||Curable with antibiotics|
|Syphilis||Direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal or oral sex.||May not show symptoms, painless sore or ulcer on genitals, rectum or mouth, rash.||Curable with antibiotics|
* Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Don't Let Age Get in the Way of a Healthy Sex Life!
Don't let age get in the way of a vibrant sex life. Just be safe. Be honest and expect honesty. Use condoms and make sure you and your partner get tested.
If you're experiencing some of the challenges aging may throw at your sex life, you're in luck. Woman who experience vaginal dryness should see their doctors and explore some of the over the counter lubricants, or prescription alternatives like estrogen creams and tablets. For men experiencing erectile dysfunction, you should also see your doctor to determine if there's an underlying cause that can be treated, or if you're eligible for medication such as Viagara to get you back into form!