Sexually Transmitted Infections among Old Adults

Many myths and misconceptions surround sex and old age. Most people uphold the make-believe story that people of age do not engage in active sex—which is not the case. The truth is, most US citizens enjoy sex beyond the age limits commoners would consider "too old."

But to some old fellows, sex at old age can mean serious health issues. That's simply because STI infections are widespread across all age-groups in the US. Two years ago (2018), the CDC reported a record-setting 2.2 million STD incidents (the highest figure ever) linked to three major STIs infections alone— syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea.

People of age have been (by some studies) found to record more cases of STIs infections. One survey by Athena Health's Network noticed individuals aged more than 60 are responsible for the increasing need for on-premise STD treatments.

The same study also found that the prevalence of common sexually transmitted diseases—herpes, Chlamydia, Trichomoniasis, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, and Hep B—went up 25 percent in just three years (2014 to 2017).

Rates May not be as High as Some Studies Speculate

However, according to WomanLab, an expert website in aged-female sexual health, "rates may not be as high as statistics may speculate, sexually transmitted infections among the aged are still extremely low."

"Much of the extreme STI cases happen among young adults—that's why the medical society has done little surveillance on prevalence among old people," explains another expert, Dr. Janet Pregler, Head of the Iris Cantor, a Female Health facility.  

Still, The Risk of STIs among the elderly is high

Dr. Lisa Granville, a Geriatrics' Professor at Florida State University College of Medicine, feels that "the risk is still higher for every old person" despite the absence of concrete data to show real rates.

She also agrees, though, that there's a small increase in the prevalence, but says the rates are higher in older males than females, "and more so, among men who have sex with fellow men.

According to Dr. Janet, today results could be the consequences of the 1960s—" before the dawn of antibiotics, when much of the medicine was still in development, and STDs like gonorrhea and syphilis were a primary problem."

 "Most of the folks who were 16 to 18 at that time are aged 60 to 70 years now," she adds.

But the dawn of antibiotics brought remedies to gonorrhea and syphilis, and the younger population of those eras got more savvy about STIs and treatment than older people. Those moments also marked the beginning of contraception, and young females could deal with unplanned-for pregnancies.

Other Factors Contributing to STIs among the elderly.

Apart from the consequences of the 1960s, what are other factors to blame for the increasing STI cases among old adults?

1. New researches in the health sector have offered remedies to conditions like erectile dysfunction enabling males of age to be sexually active. Two decades go (in 2000), the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported an increase in sexually transmitted infections among people aged 50— a significant increase from the results in the 90s.

2. Divorce rates are on the rise. That explains why older adults are ever looking for sex partners on Tinder and other internet dating platforms. During the search, people of age mix with the younger sexually active population. All these can increase the risk of sexually transmitted infections.

3. Growing at a time when things like sex and condom education were not commonplace, many old grownups may still have little knowledge of STI risks and transmission.

4. Older people are the most reluctant to go for STI testing and screening for fear of embarrassment—which means they may inhabit asymptomatic STIs like gonorrhea and chlamydia for a long time without their knowledge.

Those are the major factors contributing to high levels of sexually transmitted infections among people of age. Any other factors are secondary contributors.

Sex Education and STI Training Can Help Reduce Prevalence among People of Age

Number 4 in the above risk factors explains the need for a bolder discussion on sex and sexually transmitted diseases among people of age. Teaching and training the old on STI prevention, symptoms, the importance of regular testing, and so on can help create more awareness among older adults.

Final Words

Sexually transmitted infections can infect anyone, no matter their sex or age. Sexually active individuals of age must now be more cautious when engaging in any form of sex.