Why Your Golden Years Come with a Higher Risk of STDs 

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While most people entering the retirement phase picture relaxing walks on the beach, extended vacations to new and exciting locations, and afternoons filled with enjoyable activities like pickleball or barbeque, another underlying issue has emerged in recent years. The rate of STDs among those 55 years or older is steadily increasing. 

Gonorrhea alone, not to mention many other STDs, has increased by over sevenfold since the numbers in 2010. With such an increase, there are concerns that this generation, well-deserving of much-needed rest, will lead to higher instances via a trickle-down effect. 

Why is this happening? There are several reasons to consider when looking at those over 55 years of age. The first of which is pretty straightforward. Older Americans are having more sex than generations before them.

This could be because we are all paying far more attention to our well-being than ever before, but it also has to do with modern medication and healthcare. We have found many notable methods for extending lifespan and making those years far more rewarding than in the past.  

Imagine being an older person who has worked all their lives and suddenly is faced with all the free time in the world. Now, combine that with modern ED (erectile dysfunction) medication, and you have a potent mixture for increasing sexual activity.

While many healthcare professionals struggled to adjust to a remote or telehealth situation during COVID-19, we now see endless companies offering online physician consultations for a little blue pill in the mailbox a few days later. 

Then, there is the concern over unprotected sex. You would think that an increase in STDs would also be an increase in wearing prophylactics or using some form of protection during intimate activity. The reality is precisely the opposite. 

Consider the generation of those 55 years or older. That would put younger participants in this bracket born in 1969. Older participants only go back further in time.

This was during years when sex education wasn’t as available as it is now. People didn’t discuss sex and the mass proliferation of STDs. Many of the women’s health classes during this time still showed videos of women wearing full belts attached to pads instead of modern tampons or winged pantyliners. 

What we are seeing is the free love of the “free love” generation. These are the babies born during the hippie movement. They didn’t experience the HIV/AIDS epidemic until they were in their early teens or late high school. How many high schoolers do you know that watch the current numbers of viral spread outside of the global pandemic? 

Of course, we cannot have this discussion without addressing the perfect solution to modern hook-up culture – the mobile application. Around 19% of online daters use Tinder, with even more leveraging the social power of Bumble or OkCupid to find a quick night’s entertainment. 

Older Americans have been through many things in their personal lives. In many cases, they have had to juggle raising kiddos, endless work hours, and surviving multiple national economic downturns. By the time they reach 55 and are ready to “spread their wings,” the concerns of STDs go well out the window. 

This is why you see ads stating things like “50 is the new 40.” Modern marketing is well aware of the purchasing power and free time those entering retirement age now have. Finally, more divorces are happening to adults over the age of 50 than ever before. Women who may have had only 1-3 sexual partners in the past are discovering new freedom with plenty of men out there single and willing to put in the effort. 

Unfortunately, there is a lot of embarrassment at the doctor/physician level concerning sexual activity over 55. Physicians may not realize their older patients are sexually active or feel like they are having a reverse “birds and bees” conversation with people who were alive during Vietnam and the rise of the Rolling Stones. 

Education and awareness are the best ways to combat this increase in STDs. We need to normalize the idea of speaking to older people about their sexual activity. Not to shame or pass judgment on anyone. That would be highly counterproductive. Simply state here are the facts, and this is how you better protect yourself and your partner(s) from infection. 

We should spend a little government funding on campaigns across social media, dating applications, and TV/streaming services to ensure the population we are targeting understands they can have all the fun they want. Just don’t forget to wrap it up!  

Yes, it may seem a little uncomfortable to give someone in their 50s, 60s, or even 70s the same advice you’d give a 19-year-old college student, but we cannot let discomfort get in the way of good, quality healthcare. 


Written by: Emmanuel J. Osemota 

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