People are living longer, healthier lives thanks to medical advances and a better understanding of the role diet and exercise play in promoting longevity. More older adults are staying active and engaged long past retirement age, and that includes having a healthy sex life. But there are lingering ageist attitudes in the medical community about sex and seniors that have prevented doctors from providing good information to older adults about safe and pleasurable sex.
According to a recent Healthing Aging report, a 2017 poll by the Sex Information & Education Council of Canada found that older adults view sex as an essential component of their happiness and well-being. Many adults well into their 70s and 80s report being sexually active.
Baby boomers, who came of age during the sexual revolution, are now in their 60s and 70s and with more time to explore, and no risk of pregnancy, are experimenting with different kinds of sex. But as the body ages, it also becomes important to discuss with a doctor any physical issues that may interfere with safe and pleasurable sex. Doctors who are uncomfortable discussing sex with their older patients hinder their ability to get good information about STDs, vaginal dryness, erectile dysfunction, or other underlying health issues.
With more seniors having sex, and living in densely populated retirement or seniors’ facilities, the rate of STDs among people over the age of 60 has increased significantly since the early 2000s. Good information about safe sex is necessary for seniors who may have until recently been in a long-term marriage and not have had to worry about STDs.
All people benefit from human closeness and sexual pleasure, and older adults are no exception. Sex may change with age, but a healthy sex life is associated with a stronger immune system, closer intimacy with a partner, improved self-esteem, better sleep, and reduced anxiety. Normalizing the discussion of sex and older adults can help promote safe and healthy relationships and protect vulnerable elderly adults with advance directives about sexual activity for seniors with dementia living in care communities.
Learn more about promoting a sex-positive attitude and greater sexual health education for older adults by following this link to Canada’s Public Health Agency website.