So, recently Gawker published an article on condom usage and STI rates among senior citizens in the states. Apparently, doctors are noticing a growing problem with sexually transmitted infections – and as tempting as it is to see only the humour in this situation, it’s something that needs tackling and the routes to do so may well be difficult.
As people find themselves often without partners (either through widowhood or divorce), with less responsibilities now that their children are adults, and often moving into “assisted living communities” (or into retirement homes and complexes here in the UK), it could be said they experience a second youth in many ways.
Take all these new found freedoms, a pinch of rediscovered vitality and a slice of absent sex ed, and what do we have? A rocketing STI rate.
It’s not just in the US either. as an article almost two years ago in the Metro showed, pensioners in the UK are being told they need to adopt safer sex practices if they want to guard against rising chances of contracting infections once thought to be the domain of the club 18-30 holiday-goer. The UK article reports rates doubling in a decade, while Gawker highlight a 31% rise in chlamydia and 52% for syphilis in just four years. Considering rates of condom usage may be as low as 6% among those aged over 61, it’s surprising the rates aren’t even higher.
The problem, of course, is that when we hear teen STI and pregnancy rates are rising, the answer seems clear enough – better sex ed, right? More of it, maybe younger, and in ways that reach the audience (though I’m the first to say that more needs to be done to make teen sex ed better). When it comes to pensioners though… what can we do? It seems to me that the only people who really have an opportunity to broach these subjects are likely to be health professionals, that is unless society’s view on discussing sex shifts any time soon. So, as it stands, doctors need to ask uncomfortable questions, and give advice that their more senior patients may not see coming, or our “aging population timebomb” may have more problems than we anticipated.
STIs don’t discriminate on background, age or status. If you’re having sex with someone you’re not fluid bonded with use a condom. If you’re embarrassed buying them, there are many places to go online such as Freedoms Shop, and if you’re embarrassed to bring them up with a lover? Okay, I can’t hand-hold you through everything… But the “condom conversation” is a lot less blush-enducing than the “you need to get tested” chat.