Seniors, when it comes to sex, use it or lose it, says a noted sex educator. 'You should continue to have good sex for the same reason you should continue to get good exercise: It's taking care of yourself,' she says. 'Do it whether you feel like it or no
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"The stereotype is grim," says Walter M. Bortz II, MD,
author of We Love Too Short and Die Too Long. "The reality is that
older people are a lot sexier than younger people think. The common notion is
that when you are old you don't -- and maybe shouldn't -- have sex. Our
studies have shown that older people are sexier in attitude and performance
than they have been credited for."
And that performance has some interesting documentation.
"You must realize that in the U.S. the biggest use of
prostitutes is on the day Social Security checks come out," says John
Morley, MD, director of the division of geriatric medicine at St. Louis
So who's responsible for the myth that sex becomes unimportant
as one ages?
"People who are older get very little support from the
younger generation about sex," says Joani Blank, MPH, author of Still
Doing It: Women and Men Over 60 Write About Their Sexuality. "Young
people identify everyone in the next generation with their parents, and of
course they don't have sex."
The danger is that people come to accept these stereotypes as
true. They then risk losing one of the most important parts of their lives --
and their health.
"Sex is good for you," says the 63-year-old Blank, a
sex educator for more than 25 years. "You should continue to have good sex
for the same reason you should continue to get good exercise: It's taking care
of yourself. Wake up your body again if it has been shut down. Do it whether
you feel like it or not."
Bortz, a specialist in internal medicine at the Palo Alto
Medical Clinic in California and a clinical associate professor of medicine at
Stanford University School of Medicine, goes even further:
"We should as a moral responsibility continue to be
sexually active," he says. "Is it OK for a 75-year-old widow to say,
'Sex is not on my agenda any more?' I would challenge that and say, 'Maybe you
should make an overt effort to make the rest of your life as full as you can.'
And that includes being daring, flaunting the stereotype.
"Not infrequently an older woman will tell me, 'I just
don't give a damn about sex any more,'" Bortz continues. "I say, 'You
should, because it is important for your life quality.' She will say,
"Well, is it OK to stop making love if you feel like it?" And I say,
'No.' We agree it is not OK not to exercise. If we agree sex is good for you,
you shouldn't stop -- regardless of apathy."
Finding What Works for You
Sex for seniors is not the same thing as sex for young people.
The concern is with recreation rather than the possibility of procreation --
and for same-sex couples, the stress is less on performance and more on
satisfaction. This allows more room for expanding one's sensuality -- an
important aspect of sex when the natural aging process may mean changes in