Why Baby Boomers Need Sex Education
As you get older, life can still be filled with things you never thought you would be doing.
For example – I never, ever imagined that one day I might be a blogger. Having now written over 100
posts, I guess I could now say I’ve flown past that expectation. Secondly – in addition to the fact that I
never thought I would be a blogger, what was even further from this thought was that I would ever
write about the topic of sex.
You would think that by the time we all hit 50+, we would be quite knowledgeable about sex.
Afterall, baby boomers were the ones that came up with the whole idea of “free love” and were the first
generation to truly embrace “the pill“. We were also the generation to have had the most number of
sexual partners (baby boomers average 11 partners – compared with millennials average of 8). And
chances are we have even educated our own children about the topic.
So why do we need to talk about sex now?
With the increase in older people dating (often due to later divorce or death of a partner), many older
people are now having unprotected sex. As a result, the increase in sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
for older people is skyrocketing.
In a report by Global News about sexually active seniors, they shared the following statistics:
“According to Health Canada, national rates of STIs for people 60 and over are relatively low, but
since the early 2000s, the number of cases of syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea have increased
significantly among seniors….. They represent a five percent increase in syphilis, a 142 percent
increase in chlamydia and an 87 percent rise in gonorrhea.”
And the situation isn’t any different in the US. STDAware also reported some significant increases in the
rates of STD’s for individuals over 50:
“…recent studies have shown that STDs in the 50 to 70 age group have increased 38 percent
from 2014 to 2017…. people over 50 years old made up 21 percent of new HIV diagnoses.”
So, why is this happening?
There are a number of reasons being cited:
No Longer a Fear of Pregnancy
When baby boomers started having sex, pregnancy was often the first and only issue that was
considered. Now that this potentially is no longer a concern for older couples, protection is often not
thought of as being necessary.
Previous Sexual Partner History
Often many older people had previous long term sexual relationships where protection was not
necessary. They are taking these same assumptions from old relationships into new sexual encounters
without considering the possible consequences.
Unaware of Symptoms
Sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) often can be existent without any specific symptoms. So if
someone is infected, they may not even know it.
Physicians Don’t Ask
Many times discussion about sexual health and activity is not discussed by healthcare professionals.
There can sometimes be a preconceived belief that older individuals are not sexually active.
So what needs to be done?
Think about it. What advice would you give to someone else considering having a new sexual
encounter? Chances are you would say something like “be sure that you use protection“.
We need to now re-embrace that same philosophy ourselves. As much as we might want to believe that
we either know someone or think there is no way that they could possibly have an STI or pose a risk to
us, there is still a possibility. We wouldn’t be seeing these increasing rates in STI’s if there wasn’t.
And what if your partner doesn’t want to use protection? The UK National Health Service (NHS) provides
some suggestions on how to manage that situation here.
Get Tested First
If you are wanting to have unprotected sex, get tested first (and make sure your partner has been tested
as well). And if you think that the testing is part of your general physical conducted by your physician
that is more than likely not the case. You will need to request the test.
Having a healthy, happy, fulfilling sex life at an older age can be a wonderful thing. We just need to
make sure that we keep it just that – healthy.
- Kimberly Langdon M.D. is a retired, board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She graduated from The Ohio State University College of Medicine earning Honors in many rotations. She then completed her OB/GYN residency program at The Ohio State University Medical Center, earning first-place for her senior research project and placed in the 98th percentile on the national exam for OB/GYN residents in the U.S..
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