Safe Sex for Seniors
Let the truth be told: older men and women want to remain sexually active. Seniors have more open attitudes toward sexuality, better health, options for Internet dating, and the availability of medications like Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis. Many older adults are remaining sexually active. It is important to emphasize that seniors are also vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like younger adults. Therefore, seniors should make certain that they are practicing safe sex.
Do your homework. You need to know your partner’s sexual background before having sex. This includes oral sex, anal sex, and vaginal sex. All types of sexual intimacy can spread STDs. It is important for seniors to talk about their sexual histories and tell one another whether they have recently been tested for STDs and share the results of those tests. It is also important to ask if your partner has a history of injecting illegal drugs. HIV/AIDS can be spread via shared hypodermic needles though the most common risk factor for older women is sex with an infected man.
The best way to protect yourself and your partner is for both partners to get tested for HIV and other STDs before having sex. If one of the partners has not been tested, then it is imperative that the tested partner encourage the other to obtain testing. Remember that STDs don’t always cause obvious symptoms such as a rash, discharge, fever, or urinary symptoms. Also, some symptoms of STDs or HIV, such as fatigue, can be mistaken for age-related health problems like low testosterone levels in men.
Condoms count. Seniors should use a condom and a lubricant on every sexual encounter until they’re monogamous and know their partner’s sexual history and HIV status. Lubricants such as KY Jelly are important because they can lower the odds of getting a sore or a tiny cut on the penis or inside the vagina. These sores or cuts can significantly increase the risk of getting STDs.
Consult with your doctor. Your doctor can offer additional advice about protecting yourself from STDs and can recommend treatments for common sexual problems such as vaginal dryness and erectile dysfunction (ED).
It is quite common for senior women to have vaginal dryness as a result of estrogen deficiency. Vaginal dryness results in discomfort when a woman engages in sexual intercourse. Solutions range from over-the-counter moisturizers and lubricants to the use of supplemental estrogen prescribed by your doctor. Estrogen can be given by pills, topical vaginal creams and estrogen impregnated rings that are inserted into the vagina.
Though ED is more common with age, it isn’t inevitable. ED is often due to an underlying medical condition such as heart disease, diabetes, or the side effects of medication. As a result, there is often nervousness with the onset of a new relationship. Since ED may be the first sign of an underlying medical condition, it’s particularly important to speak with your doctor if you are having difficulty obtaining or holding an erection adequate for sexual intimacy.
It is not uncommon for seniors to have lost a partner and go without sexual intimacy for months or years after losing a spouse. Consequently, there is anxiety associated with embarking on a new sexual relationship. Occasionally, counseling is a good idea to help the seniors jump start their sex lives.
There are numerous medications for ED, which are not recommended for men who use any form of nitroglycerin. Other treatments for ED include testosterone replacement therapy for men who have symptoms of decreased libido, lethargy, and falling asleep after meals. Finally, there are operations which include penile implants for men where oral medications are not effective.
Bottom line: It is acceptable and normal for seniors to engage in sexual intimacy. If a man and woman are healthy, free of STDs, and wish to be sexually intimate, they can successfully engage in sexual intimacy.
Dr. Neil Baum is a physician at Touro Infirmary and can be reached at (504) 891-8454 or on his website, www.neilbaum.com.