Safe Sex for Seniors

By Stephanie Watson  @YourCareE
August 18, 2023
Safe Sex for Seniors

Pregnancy obviously isn’t an issue for older adults, but you are still at risk for sexually transmitted diseases. Here’s how you can protect yourself.

The Villages in Citrus Hills, Fla., is renowned for its golf clubs, country clubs, and more than 70,000 upscale homes. Yet this gated retirement community has become even better known for its residents — or rather, for their extracurricular activities.

The Villages has the dubious distinction of having one of the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the country. As reported in one story, a gynecologist claimed she “treated more cases of herpes and human papillomavirus at The Villages than she had when she worked in Miami.”


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The titillating tales that have emanated from the community highlight soaring rates of STDs among baby boomers countrywide and the need for education about safe sex for seniors. The number of new genital warts, hepatitis B, and other STDs have also risen in this age group.

“Anyone who does not practice safer sex, no matter their age, can contract an STD,” said Anupam B. Jena, MD, PhD, of the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Medicine.

When older adults are diagnosed with an STD, it’s often late in the course of the condition, once it has already done damage and is harder to treat.

What’s behind the STD boom in baby boomers?

Many boomers were raised at a time when sex education focused solely on preventing pregnancies — not STDs. Once menopause hit, those worries became obsolete. Both men and women felt free to adopt a more laissez-faire attitude to protection. Adults over 40 have the lowest condom usage of any age group, according to the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior.

Add to lax protection the rising number of over-50 singles. The divorce rate among people over 65 is increasing, a phenomenon researchers dubbed “the gray divorce revolution.” The percentage of older adults who find their dates online is also on the rise, leading to sexual encounters between people who know very little about each other’s personal history.

The era of Viagra, Cialis, and other medications has ushered in a time when erectile dysfunction (ED), which affects as many as 70 percent of men by their 70s, is no longer a barrier to sex, and has added to the lack of safe sex for seniors.

Millions of men now take those drugs — and many of them fail to take precautions during sex. One study found that STD rates in men taking ED drugs were two to three times higher than in non-users.

Safer sex at any age

Your desire for intimacy doesn’t dim when you hit 50. And just as you’re never too old to have sex, you’re never too old to practice safe sex.

Anyone who is not in a committed relationship should use a condom during every sexual encounter. You can buy lubricated condoms or add a water-based lubricant if vaginal dryness is an issue.

If you’ve found a new partner or you have more than one partner, have a conversation with them about their past relationships and history of IV drug use (which can spread several STDs). Before having sex for the first time, both you and your partner should get screened for STDs.

Watch out for signs of an STD, which include:

  • Pain or burning when you urinate
  • Cloudy or bloody discharge from the penis or vagina
  • Pain during sex
  • Strong vaginal odor
  • Genital itching or sores

Report symptoms to your doctor. When you see your doctor for regular check-ups, talk about your sexual health and find out what screenings you need.


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August 18, 2023

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN