As an adult ages, the need for intimacy and closeness does not disappear. For some, this includes the desire to engage in sexual intimacy. Many older adults are remaining or becoming sexually active.
Regardless of age, everyone should use safe sex practices. Sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, are on the rise in America, particularly among older adults. A recent analysis found that patients over the age of 60 account for the biggest in-office treatments for STIs. Condom use for vaginal intercourse is lowest among the oldest adults.
Seniors may not have to worry as much about unwanted pregnancies, but their susceptibility of acquiring an STI does not disappear—older adults are just as susceptible to STIs as anybody else.
In fact, seniors seem to be more susceptible to STIs that younger adults based on the higher incidence of STIs in their population. Here are some reasons why this may be:
Lack of regular screening for STDs
Menopausal changes in women can lead to less lubrication and thinning of tissues, making them more susceptible to infection
Less condom use
Reduction in immune response in older people
Opening the discussion about safe sex and reducing risky behaviors is key in preventing the contraction of an STI.
Here are some tips on enjoying safe sex, regardless of age:
Do a background and body check.
Know your partner’s sexual background before having oral, vaginal, or anal sex. All types of sex can spread STIs. Talk about your sexual histories, any past STIs, results of STI testing, and whether either of you has ever injected illegal drugs. Before having sex, check your partner’s penis or vaginal area for sores, abnormal discharges, or odors.
Consider getting tested first.
The best way to protect yourself and your partner is for the two of you to get tested for HIV and other STIs before you start having sex. A person can have an STI and not know it because the symptoms may not be obvious, or may be mistaken for age-related health problems.
Use a condom and lubricant.
Use one condom and lubricant every time you have sex until you know your partner’s sexual history, STI status, and are in a sexually exclusive relationship. Using water-based lubricants is important because they can lower the chances of getting a sore or a tiny cut on the penis or inside the vagina, reducing risk of infection.
Talk to your healthcare provider.
Your healthcare provider can offer additional advice about protecting yourself from STIs and when sex is safe with certain medical conditions such as after a heart attack. Your provider can also recommend treatments for common sexual problems such as vaginal dryness and erectile dysfunction (ED).