Sex and the Senior Living Community: N.Y. Times

With a documented, “rapid” increase in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among older Americans, there’s cause for concern about unsafe sex practices happening in retirement communities around the country, says a recent New York Times opinion piece. 

Both chlamydia infections and syphilis diagnoses rose substantially among seniors aged 65 and older between 2007 and 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The numbers are similar to STD trends in the 20 to 24-year-old age group, notes Ezekiel J. Emanuel, an oncologist and vice provost at the University of Pennsylvania, and there are a few reasons why.

“First, retirement communities and assisted living facilities are becoming like college campuses,” he writes. “They cram a lot of similarly aged people together, and when they do, things naturally happen.”

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Another factor: older people are living longer and healthier, allowing them to remain sexually active late into their lives. More than half of men and about 40% of women aged 60 and older report being sexually active, says Emanual citing a National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior.

“But while they are having a lot of sex, seniors didn’t seem to get the safe sex memo, or when it came through they ignored it because they did not think it applied to them,” he says. “They obviously don’t have to worry about pregnancy. And they grew up before the safe sex era. So seniors might think they have no reason to use condoms.”

Emanuel says that if doctors won’t have the “the talk” with their patients, then senior living communities should consider getting involved with safe sex counselors and make condoms accessible to residents. 

“Combine retirement communities, longer life, unfamiliarity with condoms and Viagra — and what do you get? You get an S.T.D. epidemic among the Social Security generation that rivals what we imagine is happening in those ‘Animal House’ fraternities,” says Emanuel. “These S.T.D. numbers demand that seniors take responsibility for their actions.”

Read the full piece at the New York Times. 

Written by Alyssa Gerace