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Ageism and Sexuality: An Update

In May of 2013, we blogged about the paradox of aging and sexuality as it is currently manifesting in retirement homes and long term care facilities, to the chagrin of many families who expected that mom or dad would be content to spend their twilight years reading or watching television. We were enlightened on the subject of aging and sexuality by a seminar and workshop hosted by the NICE Exchange and lead by Valerie Barr from the Calgary Sexual Health Centre.

During that workshop, we learned about an evolving social issue that is rarely discussed in the context of aging: the increasing prevalence of STDs among older adults. Older adults are sexual beings, regardless of whether or not their adult children acknowledge it. But by virtue of the time period in which they grew up, many older adults are unfamiliar with the risks associated with a sexually active lifestyle, and are not particularly well-versed in practicing safe sex. As a result, staff in retirement residences and long term care facilities are tackling conversations that one would ordinarily associate with a teenagers.

A recent article in the NYTimes describes this phenomenon more bluntly, and offers some interesting statistics:

Combine retirement communities, longer life, unfamiliarity with condoms and Viagra — and what do you get? You get an S.T.D. epidemic among the Social Security generation that rivals what we imagine is happening in those “Animal House” fraternities.

According to the 2010 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, among college-age Americans, condoms are used in about 40 percent of sexual encounters, but only in about 6 percent of sexual encounters among those 61 and older. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that older men who use Viagra and similar drugs are six times less likely to use condoms compared with men in their 20s.

The author makes various recommendations to curb the above statistics, including making safe sex information and paraphernalia more readily available to older adults.

Ms. Barr from the Calgary Sexual Health Centre directed us to their website, which provides information – and videos! – to older adults who are contemplating their re-entry into the dating game.

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