Sex and the Elderly

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An issue handled with great sensitivity.

Living longer means that we are sexual beings longer. Recent studies in the United States and England, provide data that says both sexes are maintaining interest and activity about things sexual well into their eighties or nineties. One study says 26% of people between 76-85 years of age are still sexually active. As you drop to younger generations that number increases.

Why does this matter? There are many reasons, and Brett Newcomb and I are talking about them this week. Socially where are we when we think about our seventy five year old widowed grandparent living in the retirement home having sex? Where are our grandparents that age with the idea of having sex? What about being married? If your grandfather and some lady he meets at the retirement home want to get married what concerns about that need to be resolved? If they don’t want to get married, but just want to touch each other and have sex, what then?

There are moral, social, physical, and psychological ingredients facing us about this as we and our parents increase in age. The concern, however, is not just about what we call the elderly. What about those among us who are 45 and over who are single. As we age our patterns for finding sexual partners and for establishing our sexual relationship are different than they have ever been.

Some numbers to consider: Only 12% of dating men and 32% of single women who are over 45 and dating report that they use condoms for safety. STD illness in this population has increased over 50% in the last decade. Why? One reason is that these generations tend to think about safe sex as meaning how do I prevent a pregnancy? It is about procreative control not about disease. Once we reach an age such as 50 where we are not concerned about having babies (women) then we don’t think about condoms for other reasons. The divorce rate among 60 and up is skyrocketing. It is now over 50% in some areas of the country. Once divorced, those people are not going to give up being sexual. How do we convince them it is possible to be the victim of an STD and that practicing safe sex is still as important as it was in high school?

There are lots of fascinating and disturbing elements to this story. Listen to our podcast for a stimulating survey of problems more and more of us will be facing as we and our parents get older.

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