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The Rise of STDs in Seniors

The Rise of STDs in Seniors

Why you’re never too old to practice safe sex.

In 1970, when Stephen Stills recorded “Love the One You’re With,” it became a rallying cry for the hippy “free love” movement (more myth than fact, but the lyric helped sell a lot of records).

Well, if that’s your era, and today you’re still sexually active, you’re still part of a very—should we say—robust movement, according to the National Poll on Healthy Aging. More than 1,000 people between ages 65 and 80 were polled: Nearly three-quarters said they had a romantic partner, and 54 percent of them were sexually active.

They claim they’re not shy about it either: 62 percent said if they were having problems with their sexual health they would talk to their primary care provider. Unfortunately, only 17 percent had. That’s a gap that’s putting many older folks at risk.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are at an all-time high among the elderly. From 2007 to 2012, the incidence of syphilis among seniors increased by 52 percent; chlamydia increased by 32 percent. And, according to AARP, every year since then has seen about a 20 percent jump in the incidence of STDs.

The reason? Divorce rates are up, erectile dysfunction medications are easily available and docs don't spend enough time talking with seniors about safe sex.

It’s time to get proactive. Ask your partner(s) about their sexual health and get tested yourself. Medicare now offers free STD screenings for seniors. And use condoms—many seniors don’t. Keep it safe to love the one you’re with.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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