Older But Not Wiser

What I am about to tell you will either delight or disgust. Depending on your point of view and your age group. It’s about older people having sex.

Surprise, Surprise they are doing it. Not only are they doing it. They are doing it quite regularly and it seems without protection. And that, is causing a problem.

The number of sexually transmitted diseases among the over 60s is on the rise if you’ll pardon the pun. And that rise is being blamed on a lack of sex education and communication.

You’d think with age comes wisdom and maturity. But not when it comes to the comings and goings in the bedroom. Older men and women are throwing caution to the wind completely oblivious to the dangers of unprotected sex.

Now you might think that this generation should know better. But I guess you never really stop learning. Certainly there are awareness campaigns out there but they are almost always directed at the young. The media doesn’t help either by continually perpetuating the stereotype of old people as chaste, impotent, perverted and objects of ridicule. And because this generation tends to be forgotten in public health messages, sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia, herpes, genital warts and gonorrhoea are increasing. Figures released by Public Health England in 2013, show that cases involving these sexually transmitted diseases rose by more than 8 percent on the previous year. That was a total of one thousand one hundred and twenty-five cases. The number of HIV cases in the UK is also growing.

I guess you can blame it on the baby boomers. In the 1960s and 70s they were sexually active at a time when the contraceptive pill was just becoming big news. At that time the focus was on preventing an unwanted pregnancy and not on sexually transmitted diseases. And as they got older and remained sexually active, that mindset continued. One UK sexual health expert has laid the blame on higher divorce rates and the rapid rise of internet dating. Older people are feeling more confident about embarking on new relationships and the message about playing safe has struggled to keep up. Older people might be embarrassed about not knowing how to properly use a condom. And if you haven’t used one in more than 30 years who are you going to ask to show you how?

Sex health experts say what must happen is that older people understand it’s OK to ask these questions. That it’s OK to ask how to use protection. It’s OK to want to be educated and informed in the same way that we do when it comes to stroke, cancer prevention and diabetes. It’s very OK to keep yourself healthy. One suggestion has been for sexual health checkups for the over 60s by the local GP in much the same way as they do for cancer.

Education would appear to be the key to success. Maybe what needs to happen is for those conversations to start happening in community centers and, God forbid, aged care facilities. They could even consider distributing condoms and Viagra as well as instructions on how to use them, as part of those conversations.

The reality is people are living longer. And that might force all of us to reconsider the notion of what constitutes old age. But unless we break the silence on the not so secret sex lives of the over 60’s, older people will continue to think they are fancy-free and bulletproof.

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