When seniors age in the late stages of their lives, that doesn’t mean they lose their need for sexual intimacy. In fact, seniors are having sexual relations more often than not. Many times however, the issue is challenged by family members, healthcare professionals, and others seeing the need to interfere.
We are sexual beings, and that doesn’t change as we age. Occasionally, sons and daughters are not happy about mom or dad’s sexual proclivities, in a community or a facility setting.
Case in point, Henry Rayhons, a 78-year-old former Iowa Republican state legislator was accused last summer of sexually abusing his wife. His daughter-in-law made the claim, after he had sex with his wife in the nursing home where she lived as a dementia patient. His wife, Donna Lou Rayhons, died on Aug. 8, 2014, a week before her husband was charged with one count of third-degree sexual abuse.
Fortunately he was found not-guilty, but it raises an important question, which many likely wonder about. Is it ok for seniors in their last stages of life to have sexual intimacy, married or not, in a community care setting? More importantly, are they having safe sex to avoid sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)? Statistics show a relatively high number of seniors are having sex, (almost 30 percent of seniors over 80 years old) but more alarming, STDs have doubled among this population.
As people age, the assumption is that they no longer are sexually active. Unfortunately, it has become a taboo subject, even amongst healthcare providers. With Viagra and other erectile dysfunction medications, sex among the elderly is at an all-time high.
When our society is uncomfortable thinking about sex and seniors, it becomes a form of discrimination. As a result, we begin to deny senior citizens their privacy in assisted living, Memory Care, and other facilities. Add to the fact, that in their golden years, seniors usually dont use contraceptives like condoms, or worry about STDs such as HIV/AIDS.
Safe-sex among seniors is often ignored. According to an AARP study, seniors didnt receive the talks about incurable STDs such as genital herpes and HIV/AIDS. There are many contributing factors why STDs are on the rise at alarming rates among seniors. The bottom line is that we need to better educate physicians, healthcare providers, and caregivers at senior communities about the increase of STDs. Seniors can then be made aware of how to prevent them by using condoms and other supplies, to decrease and eliminate the chance for seniors to get infected.
Here are some safe sex tips to consider. Whether you are a caregiver or someone else working with seniors on a regular basis, these will help to ensure they lead healthy and active sex lives during their remaining years:
- Talk about it – Encourage seniors to discuss their sex lives with you. Silence limits an honest conversation about their health and sexual habits.
- STD testing – Many seniors don’t believe this is necessary, due to their upbringing and other factors. Seniors should be encouraged to get tested because their lives depend on it. No one is too old to get HIV/AIDS.
- Safe partners – Seniors need to be open and honest with their significant others or sex partners, and have open and honest conversations about sexual health before the lights are turned off. If seniors don’t feel comfortable, offer less, non-penetrative orgasms.
- Condoms for men and women – If you are a senior, use them when having sex, and if you are a caregiver, ensure they use them “properly and safely.”
- Lube – After menopause, women experience a reduction of natural lubrication. Seniors should use water-based lube to help reduce micro-abrasions that can increase the chance for infections.
- E-resources – There is a plethora of information about safer sex for seniors online, including: recent studies, trends, educational resources and much more!
Seniors at practically any age are having sex, and theres a tremendous need to give them their respect, dignity, and especially educational information. That way, seniors can be open and enjoy a healthy sex life. They can be safer about avoiding STDS and other diseases that have no cure, and can affect their overall health.
David Haack is the VP of Sales & Marketing at Living Care Lifestyles. He has more than 30 years of experience in the industry, including implementing sexual intimacy privacy policies for seniors. He is also the co-founder of the Northwest LGBT Senior Care Providers Network (www.nwlgbtseniorcare.org). For more information, please email David at Davidh@livingcarelifestyles.com or call (206) 441-1770. Visit www.LivingCareLifestyles.com
Note: Information from AARP, and the National Institute of Health was used for this article.