Grandma and grandpa are getting it on, and we need to get over it.
“People look at disability and age as a problem, ” sexuality educator Melanie Davis said. “We don’t have to frame it as this horrible thing.”
Davis, SaferSex4Seniors developer, said it’s a myth that men and women lose sexual interest with age. In fact, “they will likely have satisfying sex later in life,” she said.
Here are a few myths busted about senior sex:
Myth: They only have one partner
Christine Heumann, physician at Detroit Medical Center’s Receiving Hospital and medical director at the Detroit Public Health STD Clinic, said people are living longer and having more sexual partners.
“65 is the new 45,” echoed Dr. Patrice Harold, Director of Minimally Invasive Gynecology at Detroit Medical Center’s Hutzel Women’s Hospital.
The problem: They aren’t practicing safe sex.
People 55 and older account for more than a quarter of the estimated 1.2 million Americans living with HIV in the U.S., according to CDC data.
Between 2010 and 2014, gonorrhea cases increased by more than 90%, syphilis infections by about 65% and chlamydia infections increased by about 52% among adults 65 and older, CDC data shows. In 2015, the upward trend continued from the following year: Gonorrhea increased 13%, syphilis (both primary and secondary) increased 19% and chlamydia increased 6%.
The National Sex Study showed many seniors have active sex lives, ranging from a variety of behaviors and partner types, but adults over 40 “have the lowest rates of condom use.”
Davis said many seniors think of condoms as a way to prevent pregnancy, not STIs.
Myth: Sex isn’t happening in nursing homes
In 2015, a then 85-year-old woman known as “The Condom Lady” spent time touring senior living homes in Florida, educating residents about safe sex.
“And I ask the seniors: How old do you think you are when you stop thinking about sex? And they all say, when you’re dead,” Kate GeMeiner told Health News Florida.
Seniors in assistant-living communities are still having sex, but the topic is so taboo, most nursing homes (and adult children) don’t address it.
Only about a quarter of assisted-living facilities have intimacy policies, according to a survey by The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.
Not having clear sex policies can be problematic, especially in cases of questionable consent.
In 2015, a retired farmer went to court after having sex with his wife who had Alzheimer’s. A jury ultimately decided what the 78-year-old did with his wife was not a crime.
Myth: Sex isn’t good for seniors
Harold said sex can be a great health booster.
“There’s nothing wrong with having sex after 60 and there are benefits for vaginal health,” Harold said.
She said the more seniors have sex, the longer they can usually maintain it as part of their lifestyle — “use it, or lose it.”
Improved sleep, younger appearance, less migraines and relationships satisfaction, are among reasons AARP lists to “have more sex after 50.”
Some reports also show sex can lower odds of developing prostate cancer for men.
Plus, sex can still be satisfying.
In 2013, the National Council on Aging shared that 61 percent of men in their 60s find sex equally or more physically satisfying than in their 40s, and 62 percent of women in their 60s find sex equally or more physically satisfying than in their 40s. Also, 76 percent of men find sex as emotionally satisfying as in their 40s. Among women, it’s 69 percent.
Myth: There’s no physical attraction
Sex goes beyond a superficial connection.
“When people get older, yes, they have saggy bodies and skin conditions,” Davis said. “As we age, we tend to think that those things matter less. We tend to be more forgiving of ourselves and partners.”
Some people actually feel more comfortable in their skin as they age. A 2014 Gallup poll showed 66% of Americans 65 and older “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that they always feel good about their physical appearance.
Ashley May, USA TODAY Network