Sexual Wellness Resource Center
For Adults over 50.

Safe sex

Condoms
By Michael Bates, M.D.

During my practice years and while medical director at Planned Parenthood I spoke frequently with young patients about safe sex. Only rarely was there such a conversation with my over 50 patients. Well, we boomers are at it again, once more breaking tradition, this time it is age, sexual activity with a new partner, and an increase in sexual transmitted disease (STD). Physicians and their over 50 patients need to be talking about safe sex, condom usage.

This is why; syphilis, gonorrhea, HIV, chlamydia, genital herpes, hepatitis B, genital warts, and trichimonas are all sexually transmitted diseases.

  • HIV/AIDS is growing faster in those over 50 than those 40 and younger, Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • The diagnosis of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia in those 55 and older is up 43%, CDC.

Contributing factors to STDs in older adults:

  • High mid-life divorce rate
  • Online dating services and lower likelihood of knowing the background and sexual history of the other
  • Retirement community proliferation, the loneliness following the loss of a spouse, and others in the same boat
  • Medication for erectile dysfunction
  • Lack of safety education and lower condom use

How do you protect yourself if you’re single and sexually active? Use a condom. Although not perfect, because they can break or slip off, they help a lot. Safe sex education and the recommendation of condom use, didn’t became prevalent until the 1980s when HIV/AIDS was discovered. That education was directed toward the youth and we were married and middle aged. That explains the following findings:

  • 90% of men over 50 do not use a condom when they have sex with a date or casual acquaintance, Journal of Sexual Medicine.
  • 70% of men over 50 do not use a condom with a sex partner they have just met, Journal of Sexual Medicine.
  • 60% of women 58-93 did not use a condom the last time they had sex with a casual partner, University of Chicago.

New and potential sexual partners must talk openly about safe sex.  This is unfamiliar territory for those finding themselves single after years of marriage. The last time they dealt with a new sexual partner they were more concerned about preventing pregnancy than catching a STD. This is a conversation that ideally should take place before the passion of the moment overcomes the best of tensions. It is important to remember that you are not only sleeping with a new partner, but also with the new partner’s sexual history.

So how does one open the subject? I suggest using the team approach in a straight forward fashion. Talk about the fact that anyone who has sex can get a STD, and that many STDs have no signs or symptoms in their early stages. Talk about both of you getting tested, to protect yourselves and one another. You might want to forward this article to your new or potential partner to break the ice.

Take home message: Baby Boomers have entered a new frontier, sexual activity over 50 with new partners, and a subsequent increase in STDs.   The best prevention? Condoms (link) and open and frank conversations with new or potential partners. Screening for STDs is important.

About the Author

Michael Bates, M.D.

Dr Bates practiced obstetrics and gynecology for 34 years in Wichita, Kansas, until his retirement in 2011.

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