Far too many people place themselves at risk of a sexually transmitted infection, simply because they find it hard to believe that they could be vulnerable. The belief, usually, is that one belongs to a population group perceived as low-risk — heterosexuals, women, sober and drug-free or rich — and therefore, needn’t worry. There is one group that tends to view itself as particularly sheltered from risk, however, and recent statistics seen for this group have begun to worry the government and the medical community — this group is constituted of the elderly.
What happens with senior citizens?
The CDC has uncovered a worrying trend among those over 50. Among them, the numbers of those affected by HIV have grown faster than among those under 40. This statistic turns all conventional wisdom on its head. Those over 50 or 60 are usually seen as less sexually active and less prone to risky sexual behavior.
Nonetheless, the statistics are clear. Seniors do often report sexually transmitted infections. There are a number of reasons why this should be so.
Studies in the past haven’t looked at senior citizens: Conventional ideas about senior citizens that hold them to be uninterested in sex, haven’t spared researchers. Sex studies in the past simply didn’t look at this group. Now, they do.
Lifestyles of the elderly actually are changing: With divorce rates up among seniors, greater acceptance and availability of hormone therapy and erectile dysfunction medications, and a greater opening up of attitudes about elderly sex, there is greater sexual activity in this age group than ever before. A rise in risk is only inevitable.
There is freedom from worry about unwanted pregnancies: Many people think of protected sex mainly for birth control. Since pregnancies are no longer an issue past menopause, however, many lower their guard, and go without condoms. Menopause can also mean fewer reproductive complications for women, meaning fewer visits to OB/GYN. Routine screening falls by the wayside.
Past menopause, women tend to be at higher risk: With lower hormone levels to support good vaginal health, elderly women tend to be injury-prone. Injured tissue tends to be more prone to sexually transmitted infections.
There tends to be less awareness: Sex education and frank conversations about the practice of safe sex were uncommon in the 50s. The result was that people grew up with little knowledge or awareness in matters to do with STIs. In their 60s now, people who belong to this demographic tend to be less careful about safe sex.
There is also the challenge of a lower level of immune health in old age. The less robust the immune system, the more prone to disease one becomes. In many cases, the elderly simply mistake signs of diseases such as syphilis, for those that come from other age-related health challenges, and they pay little attention.
According to Safer STD testing in NYC, screening for STIs is as important for the elderly as for any age group. Routine testing is vital for the sexually active, no matter what one’s age, gender or sexual orientation, and can help prevent disease if done to both partners.
Seek knowledge in an active way
For those who haven’t grown up used to talking about sex, it can be hard to bring up the subject in conversations. There are any number of resources out there that help explain the facts of sexually transmitted infections, however. From Internet videos to dozens of accessibly written books, there’s a lot of good information available, and it can all help one stay safe.
Work to free yourself of your inhibitions
Learning about STIs yourself may not be enough. If you are unable to convince your partner of the necessity of screening and safe sex, you still put yourself at risk. It’s important to work out plans to bring up such topics with your partner, feelings of embarrassment notwithstanding.
Self-pleasuring is safe and healthy
While masturbation was stigmatized as unhealthy or sinful at one time, it is now universally accepted by the medical community as wholesome. The more one is able to satisfy oneself, the less often one might undertake sexual adventures that are poorly thought out .
Sex is essential at every age, and it’s healthy. As with many activities, however, it does come with a set of risks . Knowing how to address these risks can go a long way in ensuring a fulfilling life.
Samantha Preston is a nurse. She has a number of years of experience working as a sexual health nurse and likes to impart her knowledge with a wide online audience with her a