The notion is that with age comes wisdom, but a comprehensive and perhaps disturbing report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta squashes the long-held belief that people over 50 are wiser and more cautious when it comes to sex, as the rate of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV/AIDS, is on the upswing among the mature crowd.
The CDC study, coupled with a thought-provoking article by two registered nurses in the November-December issue of a popular national health magazine, adds credence to the idea that 50 is the new 30, and older people are throwing caution to the wind when it comes to activity in the bedroom.
“Unfortunately, the common misconception still persists that people over 50 are no longer sexually active,” write Lisa Jeffers and Mary DiBartolo, registered nurses and co-authors of an article in the medical journal MEDSURG. “As a result, health care providers often do not discuss risky sexual behavior and STD prevention with middle-aged and older adults,” they say.
According to the CDC’s study, HIV/AIDS infection rates in the over-50 crowd increased from 17 percent to 24 percent in 2005. Other STDs with significant increases included syphilis, 4 percent to 4.8 percent; chlamydia, 33.4 percent to 37 percent; and gonorrhea, 40.9 percent to 45.1 percent.
Debunking the myth that sex stops after age 50, health experts contend that the mature set is more sexually active now than in past generations. The increase is due to the advent of popular erectile dysfunction medications such as Viagra and hormone replacement therapy. Add to the mix a much more liberal attitude about sex from baby boomers-including dating people much older or younger and the popularity of online dating services-and the jump in the rate of STDs among older folks and the need for precaution and preventative methods becomes clear.
“It’s all about responsibility, being careful and aware of your sexual activity and partners, and that is at any age,” said Hilda Hutcherson, physician, sex expert and clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. Hutcherson is the author of three books, including “Pleasure: A Woman’s Guide to Getting the Sex You Want, Need and Deserve.”
Hutcherson and other health care experts said initiatives must be developed to assist older adults in coping with an STD. Additionally, seeking the services of national and respected senior organizations such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is another effective way for older Americans to deal with the sexual revolution.
“Sex is good for the heart, the immune system and mental health. Studies show that people who have satisfying sex lives live longer,” Hutcherson said. “People need to start looking at sex as something that is not nasty or something to be ashamed of-then it is very easy to come to the conclusion that grandma should be having sex.”
To read the full article in the MEDSURG Nursing Journal and the CDC study highlights, visit www.medsurgnursing.net.