The myth of sex being just for the young
Sexuality is a very important part of a fulfilling, healthy life. It is not only a pleasurable experience of the senses, but also a way of deeply connecting and sharing with a person who you hold close. As such, it is an activity that should be meant for everyone, and not just the young people. As a matter of fact, it is. Unlike most people think, the older ones can still enjoy a satisfying sexual life, whether it is with their spouse, their date or even other people.
The fact that people lose all interest or capacity to have sex when they grow older is nothing but a myth. It is true that sexual appetite decreases in intensity, but other aspects of sex are mantained and even become stronger as years go by. Old people can enjoy their sexuality just as much as young people do. Help Guide has published a very extensive article on the sex life of older people, always remarking the idea that a fulfilling sex life is possible at any age.
Changes in modern times, including the advances in health that allow people to live longer and better, medical aids for sexual performance such as Viagra, and a social change that is slowly lifting the taboo of sex and the imperative of a single sexual partner who must also be your spouse, allow more old people to enjoy a satisfying and more free sexual life. However, this new paradigm offers some challenges to the oldies that should be faced as a part of an integral prevention and educational programme from the public health system.
Why are people over 60 years old at a greater risk of catching a sexually transmitted disease?
According to a study run by the Health Protection Agency in the West Midlands cited in Community Care, the number of older people who has been diagnosed and treated for sexually transmitted infections has been increasing during the last years. There are many reasons why this is happening. The whole change of social paradigms and the expansion of technological and medical resources now allow older people to have a more varied and abundant sex life. The increasing rate of divorce among older people and the creation and use of many websites that are meant to find sexual partners are factors that strongly influence the possibilities to have sex with new partners for older people.
When people over 60 years old were young, there was some concern on pregnancy prevention but not much about sexually transmitted infections. These people have not learnt in their youth about STIs and how to avoid them. Now that the risk of pregnancy no longer exists, most of them believe that they don't need to use protection anymore. As we now know, unprotected sex with a new sexual partner - or an older sexual partner who has had new sexual partners- is an invitation to STIs.
Sexual education in older people
There are many obstacles and challenges when it comes to educating old people about safe sex. The generation of people that is now over 60 years old is a very particular demographic. They have been raised in a cultural environment where sex was a taboo, and are currently living in a world where sex in old people is still a taboo on its own. As you can read in higher detail in this story in The Guardian, old people are usually embarassed to request for education on sexual matters or getting sexual protection. A twenty-years-old man won't be likely to feel awkward if he walks in and asks to purchase condoms; a sixty-years-old man might be looked at as a pervert or a "dirty old man" if he does the same thing.
Even when an old person seeks help or advice in the health system, whether it is private or public, there is a sense of awkwardness in the whole process that disencourages most older people. This situation, as warned by www.theSTIclinic.com, presents a difficult situation for ensuring a correct sexual education process. Under 15% of people over the age of 65 have reported to have sought for sexual advice in the last twenty years.
A sexual education programme that is specifically oriented for elder people is necesary. Most campaigns aim to people under twenty-five years old, because they are considered to be the most vulnerable group regarding STIs. However, this policy is helping to set more and more old people aside. Their sexual lives are different from younger people and hey have their own needs and particularities. Only a targeted, systematic campaign will be enough to tackle the rise of STIs among the elder population.