Community Blog

Seniors at High Risk for Sexually Transmitted Diseases [STDs]

By Debbie Humphrey

This is definitely a subject I’m not totally comfortable discussing, however, it must become part of a conversation among families, caregivers and elderly loved ones. I’m talking about seniors and sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, which is timely considering it is STD Awareness Month.

Regardless of how much we want to dismiss thoughts of our parents and grandparents engaging in sexual activity of any kind, it happens…more frequently than you may even imagine. Growing numbers of cases involving STDs plague nursing homes and assisted living communities, for a variety of reasons.

In an article by Derrick Y. McDaniel, “Mr. Eldercare 101,” “STD transmission among the elderly is unfortunately a common and growing problem. For example, between 2007 and 2011, Chlamydia infections among Americans 65 and over, increased by 31 percent, and syphilis by 52 percent.”

Most people are shocked by these statistics but think about it. With the evolution of the “little blue pill” for men with erectile dysfunction, and hormone replacement therapies for post-menopausal women, sexual encounters among the aging is on the rise.  So, too, are STD’s.

Derrick shared the following senior STD risk list:

  • Men using E.D. drugs plus post-menopausal women (without fear of pregnancy) equals unprotected risky sex
  • Significantly fewer older men are available, so women in an effort to please (an keep) a partner have risky unprotected sex
  • Older people are now using on-line dating and thus are relatively unfamiliar with their partners and their sexual histories
  • Many of today’s “Baby Boomers” came to maturity during the sexual revolution of the 1960s/1970s and are now reverting back to their previous risky sexual behavior
  • A lot of seniors were already married when sex education gained prominence and therefore missed the “safe sex” talks and never learned “safe sex etiquette”
  • As people age their immune systems tend to weaken making them more susceptible to contracting ANY disease - including STDs
  • Seniors because of embarrassment are less likely to discuss sexual issues with their doctors - which can further lead to the spread of STDs
  • Many doctors don’t think to test seniors for STDs as a standard examination protocol

Now that we understand how STDs are spreading among seniors, Derrick has a few suggestions about how to stop it.

  • Seniors should be getting the same basic “safe sex” education as young people (learning about STDs and how to recognize the signs, how they can complicate other existing chronic medical conditions, and most importantly the importance-and proper use of-condoms)
  • Doctor’s should inquire about sexual activity with seniors as they do with teenagers and younger adults
  • Information of detection and treatment options need to be well publicized (ex: Medicare provides free STD screenings and low cost treatments)
  • Distribute free condoms in places where seniors live and congregate

It may be an uncomfortable conversation for family members and caregivers to have with Dad or Grandma, but there should be a dialogue to make sure they are aware of their risks for contracting STDs and how best to prevent them.

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Source: Huffington Post