Safe Sex for Grown-Ups
The must-ask questions if you're dating after 50.
The Numbers Don't Lie
Even though safe sex for older adults doesn't garner much media attention, the risks are real An estimated 16% of new U.S. HIV/AIDS cases are among those age 50 and older, and 25% of people living with HIV/AIDS are over 50, according to the CDC.
Younger adults are seen as the highest risk group for HIV and STIs, so most messages in public health campaigns skew younger. But a number of sex education programs are now targeting older adults.
In Florida's Broward County, the Senior HIV Intervention Project recruits older peer educators to explain HIV risks to seniors. The University of Michigan Health System runs a Sex Matters clinic specifically for individuals and couples 60 and older.
"Regardless of age, prevention efforts must continue to focus on changing risk behaviors that lead to infection and helping those living with HIV learn their status," Scott Bryan, spokesman for the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, says.
Bowling Green State gerontology professor Nancy Orel works with senior centers in northwest Ohio to promote HIV/AIDS prevention education. She encourages everyone to get HIV testing, which is now covered by Medicare.
"We try to remove the stigma by saying, 'Be a living example,'" Orel says. "You may think this doesn't apply to you. Do it for yourself, for your children, and grandchildren."
Yes, Let's Talk About Sex
Talking about sex and protection before you get to the bedroom is important, University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research Terri Orbuch says. "Is that something that creates a lot of anxiety? Absolutely."
Orbuch, a relationship expert at SeniorPeopleMeet.com says, "It's the timing that's important and how you talk about it. If you share something about your current situation or your past, then your partner feels more comfortable with doing that with you."
Always own it first, Forsythe says. "You can say, 'I've had tests for STIs and I'm clean. What tests have you had? Let's share information.'"
Knowing the rules of the game today should make women feel empowered, Forsythe says. "Women who are 50-plus are coming into a secure time in their lives full of wisdom and strength. It should also apply to their sexuality."