Aging and Intimacy
It is a topic most of us would prefer not to discuss or even think about - our parents and even grandparents being sexually active.
But as we live longer and stay healthier in our later years, the myth that sex ends when you turn 50 is being proved false. Medical advances with medication like Viagra available, also allow men to continue an active sex life at a time in their lives when in the past they might not have had that choice. Downtown Toronto sex store Come As You Are says up to half their clientele is now made up of people over the age of 60.
With divorce rates on the rise for people over 50, there are suddenly newly singles re-entering the dating world in an environment that is much different than what it was when they first got married 20 or 30 years before. People are reconnecting with old flames on social media sites like Facebook and even trying their hand at online dating
But the dating world is different from the one it was before HIV and STD infections. With the risk of pregnancy no longer a concern, this is an age group who are not typically safe-sex savvy. In fact, those over the age of 45 are the least likely of any age group to use condoms. Public Health Agency of Canada statistics state that in 2008 15% of all new cases of HIV were in people over 50. This is a 5% increase over the previous year that data was available. Cases of other STDs in this age group are also on the rise – Chlamydia rates have tripled and gonorrhea rates quadrupled. Certainly there is a need to address these very real concerns with a population that never previously had to consider these issues.
So is it time for the reverse sex talk and to sit your newly single parent down to discuss safe sex? It might very well be. To make the discussion somewhat easier, there is an organization called Safer Sex For Seniors (www.safersex4seniors.org) who provide information and advice from experts about sexual intimacy in the later years. They have also recently produced a video (available on their website or youtube) which addresses safer sex in an amusing but informative fashion. There are also respectful retail stores, like Toronto’s Come As You Are, that offer educational outreach services and programs that could offer support and advice for seniors renewing or reviving their sex lives (www.comeasyouare.com) .
Some seniors’ residences and facilities have also begun holding seminars and information sessions for their residents looking at the issues around sexual involvement later in life – how it is different from when you are younger and how it can still be safe and enjoyable.
Little research has really been done in this field and the statistics available are patchy. Even many family doctors shy away from discussing safer sex and condom use with their older patients. So the myth continues to live on. Encourage your doctor to discuss these subjects openly with you at your next appointment.