Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are on the increase in people over the age of 50 with evidence that they are rising faster than in younger people.
Older people are increasingly likely to be single or experiencing relationship changes. Nowadays there is more opportunity to meet new people through international travel and internet dating. Treatments for menopausal symptoms and erectile difficulties mean that older people can continue to have a sexual life if they wish to do so.
Society still sees sexual activity among older people as taboo and this attitude makes older people ashamed or embarrassed to admit to being sexual adults. There is also a perception that sexual problems are part of ‘normal ageing’ and that they will not be taken seriously when seeking help and advice.
Sex is not only about reproduction. Apart from sexual pleasure, there are many physical and emotional benefits in having an active sex life in older age. It’s a good form of exercise, reduces stress, aids relaxation and sleep, is a good pain reliever, and keeps the prostate gland and genitals healthy – there is even a suggestion that it can help people live longer.
What are the challenges/barriers for older people?
- Contraception is no longer a necessity so they may not consider the need for using a condom.
- They do not know where to go for confidential, non-judgemental advice and information.
- They may lack experience around condom use and negotiation especially if they have previously been in a long-term relationship.
- Older people may not know how sexually transmitted infections are transmitted and in particular how they are transmitted during non-penetrative sex.
- They may misunderstand the risks or they may be unable to relate the issues to their personal circumstances.
- If their knowledge is lacking they may have difficulty finding the words to talk about their sexual life, problems or worries.