041122 Are you too old to worry about safe sex? 3 of 3

041122 Are you too old to worry about safe sex?

The following comes from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/sexuality-and-intimacy-older-adults

Age does not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Older people who are sexually active may be at risk for diseases including syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydial infection, genital herpes, hepatitis B, genital warts, and trichomoniasis.

People who are sexually active, no matter their age, may also be at risk of being infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In fact, the number of older people with HIV/AIDS is growing. You are at risk for HIV/AIDS if you or your partner has more than one sexual partner, if you are having unprotected sex, or if either you or your partner is sharing needles.

To protect yourself, always use a condom during vaginal or anal sex and use a dental dam or other barrier method during oral sex. Learn more about using condomsdental dams, and other ways you can prevent STDs.

Talk with your health care provider about ways to protect yourself from STDs and infections during your regular check-ups and if you have any concerns between visits. Remember, you are never too old to be at risk.

Sexual and gender minority older adults

People who identify as part of a sexual and gender minority (SGM) group, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer, may experience additional difficulties with sexuality in later life. For example, studies have found that:

  • SGM older adults are more likely than heterosexual older adults to experience certain conditions that could interfere with sex and intimacy, such as increased mental distress and higher rates of various health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and disability.
  • SGM older adults may be less open about their sexual orientation in assisted living, nursing home, or other long-term care environments out of fear of being mistreated and discriminated against.
  • Many SGM older adults don’t disclose their sexual orientation to their health care providers, and some people have reported negative reactions when they do.

Researchers are partnering with people in SGM communities to learn more about the health disparities and other factors affecting these groups. For example, the Aging with Pride: National Health, Aging, Sexuality and Gender Study, funded in part by NIA, is a long-term effort involving more than 2,000 older adults to better understand the aging, health, and well-being of SGM populations and their families.

Years of hiding their identity and other factors can cause stress and fear that may make it difficult for SGM older adults to talk openly with doctors or other health care providers. If you’re not comfortable talking with your doctor, it may be helpful to talk with another medical professional like a nurse or medical assistant. Learn about talking with your doctor about sensitive topics.

Many organizations maintain provider directories that can help connect people to local health care providers with appropriate experience and expertise, such as the CDC’s LGBT Health Services and World Professional Association for Transgender Health. The organizations listed below may also have helpful information for SGM older adults.

What can you do?

There are approaches you can take for an active and enjoyable sex life. If you have a partner, talk openly with them about the changes you are experiencing, and try not to blame yourself or your partner. Take time to enjoy each other and to understand the changes you both may be facing. This time in your life can be an opportunity to form more intimate bonds and explore your sexual relationship in a new way.

You may also find it helpful to talk with a therapist, either alone or with your partner. Some therapists have special training in helping people with sexual problems. If you sense changes in your partner’s attitude toward sex, don’t assume they are no longer interested in you or in having an active sex life with you. Many of the things that cause sexual problems in older adults can be rectified.

For example, if you are experiencing pain due to vaginal dryness, your health care professional or a pharmacist can suggest over-the-counter lubricants or moisturizers to use. Water-based lubricants can be used to make sex more comfortable, whereas moisturizers can be used regularly over time to replenish moisture and reduce dryness. Your provider also might suggest prescription hormones, such as a vaginal estrogen, or nonhormone medications that are also approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat painful sex.

If ED is the problem, it can often be managed with medications or other treatments. A health care professional may suggest lifestyle changes, such as limiting alcohol or increasing physical activity, to help reduce ED. A health care professional may also prescribe testosterone for people with low levels of this hormone. Although taking testosterone may help with ED, it may also lead to serious side effects and can affect how other medicines work. Make sure to talk with your health care provider about testosterone therapy and testing your testosterone levels. Be wary of any dietary or herbal supplements promising to treat ED. These products may have dangerous side effects or interact with prescription medicines. Always talk to a health care provider before taking any herb or supplement. Another important reason to see your health care provider for ED is that it may be a sign of an underlying health problem that should be treated, such as clogged blood vessels or nerve damage from diabetes.

Physical problems can change your sex life as you get older. If you are single, dating may be easier later in life when you’re more confident and sure of what you want. If you’re in a relationship, you and your partner may discover new ways to be together as you grow older. Talk to your partner or partners about your needs.

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