For many people, reaching the age of 55 marks the pivotal turning point in one’s lifetime. Retirement (with its inherent lifestyle changes) looms, and people turn inward, examining their innermost thoughts, desires and sensations. Living life to the fullest becomes the goal. Adult communities, which once offered few amenities, now embellish common areas with lavish community fitness centers and well designed sporting arenas for tennis, golfing or swimming enthusiasts. Social interaction with one’s neighbors becomes the norm. Appreciation of the opposite sex is alluring, and with advances in modern medicine, erectile dysfunction is becoming a thing of the past.
Sexual intimacy at this stage can take different forms. For many newly “singled” mature adults, it can mark a return to sexual freedom not seen since their youth. But such freedom does not come without responsibility. Many older adults believe that, since the fear of an unwanted pregnancy is no longer an issue, the use of a condom is obsolete. But they are so wrong!
Recent studies have shown that sexually active mature adults, especially people with multiple sexual partners, are at high risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, between 2005 and 2009 there has been a 43% increase in the reported cases of Syphilis and Chlamydia in people 55 years of age or older. And, according to a recent article in the Sun Sentinel, a South Florida newspaper… “a study conducted by sex researchers at Indiana University found that, in the United States, condom use was lowest among men over 50 years of age.”
STD risks for sexually active mature adults include:
Having more than one sexual partner
Having unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex
Engaging in sexual activity while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Does this mean that you can’t be close to someone without the fear of “catching” an STD? No.
However, it is important to take the initiative in reducing the possibility of STD infection. Although not having sex (or abstinence) is one way of preventing exposure to STDs, to the sexually active individual, abstaining from sexual activity may be unacceptable.
Besides abstinence, are there other ways to reduce one’s exposure to STDs? Certainly.
Reduce the risk… practice safe sex. The chances of becoming infected with STDs can be greatly reduced by following a few simple guidelines:
Have yourself tested for STDs before engaging in any sexual activity to make sure you are free of infection
Ask your partner if he or she has been tested, and is STD-free, before beginning a sexual relationship
Enjoy a monogamous relationship with a partner who is STD-free, and be faithful to each other
If a monogamous relationship is not right for you, observe proper precautions when having sex. Use a latex condom correctly, and each and every time you engage in a sexual act. If you are allergic to latex, polyurethane condoms are a good alternative.
If you notice any rash, bumps or sores on your body, or experience any unusual bodily discharge (from the vagina in the female, or the penis in the male), stop having sex immediately, and make an appointment for an examination with your doctor or local health care provider. If you have been diagnosed with any form of a sexually transmitted disease, notify all partners immediately; take all medications as prescribed; and do not have sex again until you and your partner(s) are physically cleared to resume sexual activity.
Protect yourself and protect your partner. Enjoy a healthy sexual experience without the fear of contracting any STD. Remember, all sexually transmitted diseases can be prevented, if the right precautions are taken.