On World AIDS Day, December 1, we repost these tips as a reminder that you are never too old to get AIDS.
Maybe you’ve heard the news about a new superbug: antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea. Perhaps you’ve read about the spread of herpes. Most of us have probably ignored these news headline as not of concern to us, just as we don’t think to get tested for AIDS/HIV.
And yet, seniors do think about sex — and have it. As we get more tech savvy, we’re jumping into online dating and enjoying meeting new partners. We consider sex fun, healthy and adaptable to age-related quirks.
Online Dating Meets Old-School Sex Ed
Within this celebration of sexual freedom is a darker truth. Sexually transmitted infections are running rampant among older Americans, with STI rates doubling among 50- to 90-year-olds in the past decade.
Many seniors who are hitting the dating scene after a long hiatus are ill prepared. Sex-ed for older generations focused on avoiding pregnancy — and might even have recommended abstinence. Condoms, if discussed at all, were marketed as contraceptives, and who cares about those post-menopause?
Today’s seniors didn’t get the talks about HIV/AIDS or incurable genital herpes when we were in school. And we’re not learning about them now, either.
And our doctors? Medical professionals make ageist assumptions and reduce older patients to “cuties” with flaccid penises and flatlined libidos; these pervasive myths create barriers that limit older adults’ access to information on how to have sex safely. Most doctors don’t even suggest testing for HIV and other STIs when the person in their office is over age 50 or 60.
The problem is, seniors are at increased risk for STIs due to the biological changes of aging.
7 Safer Sex Tips for Seniors
Just like anyone of any age, seniors deserve clear information on how to protect sexual health. So here it is — seven important dos and don’ts.
1. Talk it out
A recent study found that only 38 percent of men and 22 percent of women have discussed their sex life with their health care provider after reaching the age of 50 (click here to read about the study). Silence limits honest patient-doctor conversation, which lessens the health info that you can get. End the silence by talking to your doctor about your sex life.
2. Get tested!
Be your own health advocate and ask to be tested for STIs and HIV. Do it at the doctor’s office, or click here to find your closest testing locations on hivtest.org. Research shows that people over 50 at risk for HIV are 80 percent less likely to be tested than at-risk 20- to 30-year-olds.
3. Find safer partners
Choose sex partners who you can have open and honest conversations with about sexual health. Discuss HIV/STI testing and safer sex practices before the lights go out. If you don’t feel comfortable, stick to less risky, non-penetrative orgasms. Click here for some examples.
4. Use condoms for men and women!
5. Don’t forget the lube
After menopause, many women experience a natural thinning of the vaginal wall — you may notice a reduction in natural lubrication. Use water-based lube to help reduce microabrasions that can increase the chances of infection. (Follow “the wetter the better” mantra if you’re experimenting with butt sex too!) Click here for our Seniors Guide to Lubrication.
6. Spit, don’t swallow
Bleeding or sores in the mouth from dental work, gum issues or ill-fitting dentures can provide opportunities for infection. The safest way to give a BJ is to avoid contact between your mouth and your partner’s semen. If you do get a mouthful, spit, don’t swallow.
7. Access e-resources
Along with technology comes a plethora of information on safer sex. Let me google that for you: just click here.
Break the Silence
We live in an elusive world in which openly talking about dating is encouraged and you can find porn of any genre with a click of the mouse, but as soon as body fluids and condoms are mentioned, it’s considered crude. You can help break the silence by educating yourself and celebrating your sexuality. If our doctors are comfortable discussing consistency of stool samples with us, we can talk about sex!
We’ll leave you with a funny safe sex for seniors PSA from Florida, a state rich with snowbirds. Share the video with friends by clicking on the “YouTube” logo in the lower right of the video frame; then on the YouTube page, click “Share.”