Sex-at-Our-Age

A New Love in Older Age: Should You Be Tested? How About Condoms?

Joan-Price-senior-planetWelcome to our new Sex at Our Age columnist, award-winning senior sexpert Joan Price! Every week during Senior Sex Month and then monthly, Joan will answer your questions about everything from loss of desire to solo sex and partner issues. Nothing is out of bounds!  (Read our Q&A with Joan here.) To send your questions directly to Joan, email sexpert@seniorplanet.org. 

 

I’m really excited about a relationship I’m getting into with a man I’ve known for several years. We both feel a strong spark of interest, have had one very satisfying make-out session and would like to proceed with a sexual relationship.

My new partner has been tested twice since he last had intercourse and has offered to be tested again. I’ve only ever had two partners. The last one ended six years ago; we did not use condoms because he said he was disease-free, and I was past menopause. I know now I was naïve about the risks, but I’m completely asymptomatic.  

I plan to be tested for sexually transmitted infections soon, but I don’t know what to ask for! Are there standard tests that include HIV and several other STIs, or what? 

The other question is about condom usage: If both of us have clean test results, would condoms be necessary? I thought they wouldn’t be, but I’m reading info online that’s causing me to question this.

—Untested 

Thank you for admitting that you were naive to have unprotected sex with your partner six years ago just because he said he was disease-free. We can’t get pregnant, so we think we don’t need to use condoms with a new partner who claims to be “safe.” However, the evidence shows that many people who are infected either don’t know or don’t tell.

The scary truth is that cases of sexually transmitted diseases among 50- to 90-year-olds more than doubled between 2002 and 2012 – precisely because when we’re older, we think we think we’re safe having unprotected sex. In a 2009 survey of single, sexually active midlife and older people, 50 percent of males and 29 percent of females rarely or never use condoms. So don’t think you were the only one!

Realize that the partner of six years ago who had unprotected sex with you likely also had unprotected sex with other partners, and those people with other partners. That puts you in bed with a lot of people whose sexual-health status is unknown.

My safer sex advice is this: Agree that using barrier protection is smart sex as well as safer sex. Use condoms and other barrier protections (such as dental dams for cunnilingus) with every new partner, every time, until you’re in a sexually exclusive relationship and it’s been three to six months since either of you was sexual with anyone else.

In your case, it’s been a long time since your last partner, and your new man has been tested twice since his last intercourse. Nevertheless, you haven’t been tested, so use condoms now, talk to your doctor about setting up the tests, and continue to use condoms until your test results are in and you’ve discussed them with your doctor.  Recommended tests can vary with sexual history and lifestyle, but the ones your doctor is likely to suggest may include:

  • HIV. An estimated 20 to 25 percent of HIV-positive individuals are not aware they are infected.
  • Chlamydia  and syphilis. Cases in adults aged 45 to 64 nearly tripled between 2000 and 2010.
  • Hepatitis C. Most of the 3 million adults in the US who are infected are baby boomers – according to the CDC, one in 30 people born between 1945 and 1965 is infected with the hepatitis C virus – and many do not know they’re infected and are not getting the treatment they need.

Talk to your doctor about whether additional tests are advisable for you. Enjoy this new relationship!

—Joan

Would you like to see more questions and answers? See all of Joan’s advice in Sex At Our Age.

To send Joan your questions, email sexpert@seniorplanet.org. All information is confidential.
Joan Price is the author of the award-winning self-help book “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex” and of “Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty.” Visit Joan’s  blog, “Naked at Our Age.”

7 comments
  • Walker Thornton
    REPLY

    Much to comment on here. Note that genital herpes might require a couple to use condoms sporadically even when monogamous–the infectious cells are not always contained by the condom so if the herpes is active it can be transmitted by contact with other genital parts, even skin on the inner thigh might hold an infected cell.

    As for remaining abstinent, I can’t imagine why we as mature, older individuals shouldn’t chose to engage in intimate acts with others we trust and care for. I don’t intend to marry again, though I am 60 years old–and I also don’t intend to give up sex. Our bodies were designed to be sexual, to bring us pleasure even when no longer able to procreate–I don’t think a ‘divine being’ would want to see us shut off such a wonderful way to share intimate moments.

  • dconner
    REPLY

    I suggest sex on the internet/Skype. It is helpful and safe from STDs. However, human interaction would be better. And yes you can find intimacy on the phone or Skype….You have to have trust in each other….serious trust.

    • Joan Price
      REPLY

      Eugenie, of course abstinence is the safest sex — and not leaving your house is the safest way to avoid traffic accidents. But I think most of us want to live fully, which includes embracing our sexuality — and leaving the house!

      Monogamous married sex is a fine ideal, but many of us are unpartnered at this time of our lives. We recognize that putting off sexual connections until we’re married again (if that even happens) is denying ourselves pleasure, intimacy, and health benefits.

      We all have our own moral standards. I respect yours, Eugenie, and I would never tell you to go against them. For many of us, though, sex is a powerful part of living fully and aging with zest.

  • walter77777
    REPLY

    Condom use is not possible for many older men. I am seventy-five, and I have fond for at least the past five years that I cannot use a male condom.

    That said, I think it might be wise for any article on this matter to include a discussion of the female condom. It is far more expensive than the male condom, but compared to treating a VD or getting HIV it is an enormous bargain.

    W.

  • Kathy
    REPLY

    I’m in a similar situation, Joan, and your response has extremely helpful information for me. Glad to know there are others with similar questions!

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