Sexual Health for Seniors

By Brian Fejer, Hartman Publishing

Sex and sexuality can be awkward and uncomfortable subjects for any age group to discuss. For sexually active seniors, technological advances such as dating apps and websites, along with things like erectile dysfunction medication, have greatly expanded their opportunities. However, they may have also made issues surrounding sexual needs more complicated.

Even though aging baby boomers grew up during the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, there can be a generational divide when it comes to having discussions about sexuality. Forty years ago, the worst consequence of unprotected sex might be an unplanned pregnancy. However, in 2018 there are many issues to consider, including matters of consent and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Sexually transmitted infections like HIV or syphilis can still threaten the health and lives of seniors, who are less likely to use condoms (Source: https://nyti.ms/2ntURCY).

According to an article published by the American Sexual Health Association entitled Sexual Rights for Seniors, “In 1995 the Hebrew Home in Riverdale, New York, established what’s recognized as the nation’s first Sexual Expression policy for residents of a retirement community. Updated in 2013 to address matters of consent (which can be especially tricky with patients coping with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia), the policy affirms sexual intimacy as a human right and lays out guidelines for appropriate sexual expression in their community along with staff responsibilities in safe-guarding residents’ well-being.” In the year 2018, sexual consent and behavior has never been more important.

Some reports claim 30% of boomers are single, most often widowers, who are still searching for love and companionship. In this digital age, some of these seniors are using dating apps. A 2015 New York Post Article reports, “Stitch co-founder Marcie Rogo, 29, says she first became aware of the need for a site for seniors when she worked at an assisted living facility in 2010. Seniors aren’t the elderly babies that people stereotype. They’re real people with real pride, and it’s very hard to go up to someone and say, ‘Hi, I’m Lucy. I like bocce ball. Will you play bocce with me?’ And if you’ve lost your spouse, it’s really hard to meet someone new.” Like anything on the internet, security remains a paramount concern, but these specialized apps and dating services focus on extensive screening of applicants.

With the right guidance and resources, older Americans can enjoy their golden years in healthy sociable relationships and with sexual companionship, just like younger adults.

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