Safe Sex for Seniors
“STDs are on the rise among older people,” says Terri Clark, co-chair of Philadelphia’s LGBT Elder Initiative. As a prevention services coordinator with ActionAIDS, the state’s largest AIDS service organization, Clark says, “By 2015, more than 50 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS will be over 50 years of age.”
Seniors in the LGBT community especially are at risk of contradicting other sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and hepatitis C – which are on the rise, says Clark. That’s why a new website’s been created to answer important questions, increase awareness and provide older, sexually active LGBT seniors with the knowledge they need to enjoy sex-positive lives in their golden years.
SaferSex4Seniors.org was created by an independent collective of professional sexuality educators, researchers, authors, trainers, counselors and therapists and features a new section specifically about LGBT sexual health. The site not only answers frequently asked questions (FAQs), but it allows users to submit their own questions, which are answered online by these healthcare experts. Topics include everything from condom use and sexually transmitted infections (what are the symptoms and how to treat them), to how to talk to a doctor about sex and the nuances of relationships, desire and pleasure with sensitivity to sexual orientation and gender identity.
“There is specific information for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seniors (LGBT),” says Clark, like sections devoted to coming out at an older age, transgender health and bisexuality. In Florida, for instance, sexually transmitted diseases in seniors have increased 71 percent in the past decade. Clark says local and national numbers mirror that of the Sunshine State, which is cause for concern among elders in the community who may be at risk.
But why are the numbers increasing? For one thing, Americans are living longer, staying healthier and remaining sexually active. Many are dating again after the death of a partner or divorce, and information about sexuality and sexual health is not always geared to older adults. Plenty of healthcare providers simply do not view their older patients as sexually active, thereby ignoring or avoiding conversations about sexual health.
But in addition to frank sex talk on the site – like what positions work for those with physical limitations (there are even illustrations!) – users can also delve into an important, complex subject of sexual rights in a long-term-care setting. Because some facilities will not allow partners to be together, be intimate and have any privacy in senior communities and nursing homes, it’s important to find out what the policies are before you or a loved one decide to live there. “The FAQs on the website give questions you should ask,” says Clark, “when evaluating a facility.”