Sex over 60: condoms, casual partners and the ageing body 57



View Profile

Over the past few years we’ve seen a dramatic rise in the rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among Australians aged 60 years and older. Rates of gonorrhoea more than doubled in this age group between 2007 and 2011. Rates of chlamydia also rose significantly during this time, mirroring similar trends internationally.

STIs can be accompanied by some unpleasant symptoms and health complications, or lead to major chronic conditions, in the case of HIV. It’s therefore important STIs are diagnosed and treated, regardless of age.

To understand why STIs are on the rise, we need to know more about older people’s sexual and romantic relationships, their knowledge of STIs and safe sex, and the safe sex practices that they use. However, older people are routinely excluded from research on sex and relationships. Here’s what we know so far.

Changing sexual and relationship patterns

The baby boomer generation is renowned for challenging norms around sex and age and this has continued in recent decades.

Improvements to life expectancy and overall health in later life mean that older people may be more willing and able to engage in varying kinds of sexual activity. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest that remaining sexually active is associated with better health in older age.

Changes in the social acceptability of divorce and dating in later life have also opened up the possibility of entering in to a new sexual relationship. With new sexual partners comes an increased possibility of contracting an STI.

Alongside this, internet dating has increased the opportunities to meet new sexual or romantic partners. And medical advances such as Viagra have made (penetrative) sex in later life more of a possibility for older men than was previously the case.

However, this does not mean that all older people are sexually active, or that they are sexually active in the same ways as younger people. Instead, research suggests that older people engage in a diverse range of sexual practices, and may have to adjust to ageing bodies.

Let’s (not) talk about sex

Despite these changes, and increasing evidence that older people continue to be sexually active, there’s a reluctance to acknowledge this shift. Many in the community continue to cling to outdated and ageist assumptions that older people are asexual.

As a result, medical professionals can be reluctant to talk to their older patients about sex. Research in the United Kingdom shows GPs assume the topic of sexual health is not relevant to older people, and fail to proactively raise this issue with their older patients. This is often based on an incorrect assumption that older people are no longer sexual.

This reluctance can have direct and negative implications for the sexual health of older people. It becomes less likely that older patients will be offered routine sexual health screenings, or have the opportunity to ask their GP questions about sexual health.

Learning about safe sex is a life-long endeavour

When we talk about safe sex and STIs, our focus tends to be on younger people. In some ways this makes sense: many younger people are entering their first sexual relationships and need to learn how to have sex safely.

There is also an assumption that older people already know about safe sex. Yet, many older people grew up in a time when comprehensive sex education wasn’t provided in school. For those who have been in long-term, monogamous relationships, using condoms may have seemed irrelevant.

Older Australians need different types of information at different stages in the life course. Those reentering the dating or casual sex scenes, for instance, might benefit from a refresher on safe sex.

Older people might also have unique or different safe sex needs to their younger counterparts. For example, how does one negotiate condom use and an ageing body? How can issues around increased friction and pain that can be associated with condom use (particularly for postmenopausal women) be managed?

We need age-specific education and resources.

Don’t delay treatment

STIs can be costly to treat, and the economic burden of STIs increases with delayed diagnosis and treatment. Delayed treatment can result in more severe symptoms and complications. Ignoring older people as sexual beings may contribute towards poorer overall health and deny their sexual agency.

We need to be more proactive in engaging older Australians around their sexual health. This could start with providing education, access to testing, and opportunities for discussions about sex, relationships, and sexual health.

We also need to know more about sex and relationships among older Australians and what they already know or don’t know about STIs and safe sex. This week we launched SexAge&Me, the first national study of older Australians’ sexual and romantic relationships, to help answer these questions and inform future approaches to sexual health policy and health care responses.

If you’re an Australian resident aged over 60 and want to take part in the survey, click here.


The ConversationBy Bianca Fileborn, La Trobe University and Anthony Lyons, La Trobe University

Bianca Fileborn is Research Officer at the Australian Research Centre for Sex, Health & Society at La Trobe University.
Anthony Lyons is Senior Research Fellow, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Guest Contributor

  1. We should have only one husband or wife unless there is a death involved. In any other case God calls it adultry.

    11 REPLY
    • Yes, ignorance is bliss, but only for a short time. In the end we all die and then, THE JUDGEMENT, in accordance with God’s rules. Not our rules. It does not matter what you believe. God is real and so is His word. You better get to know because it is what we will all be judged by. Oh yes, except for the redeemed.

    • Why would you require to have sex to be happy? If you divorce then be celebant. I believe that you can have a good relationship without having to have sex. I have five children and seven grandchildren. I have been married for forty seven years. I believe that it takes two to have peace. I have watched women being passively abusive. Men can not handle being mentally abused. Peace in a relationship comes from both. I wish you happiness and fulfilment.

    • Yup, it’s a full moon alright. Good question Lyn Bradford. I think Andrew is suggesting that if you divorce your violent husband then naturally God wants you to cease to be a sexual being from that moment onwards. Even if you are in your 20s.

    • 😮 …. I think you have to be joking Andrew Phillips !!!! Boy, I’m glad that I never married you ….. I pity your poor wife !!! Dear oh dear 🙁 ….. or perhaps you’re just like stirring up women lol

    • Yes I think Andrew is just stirring us women up. I would like to say that my marriage broke down in my.early 40s and can assure that I will not miss out on something as I enjoy my sex and really dont care what people think. I worked in the medical field and learnt a lot and know what I can and cant do.

    • No Sandra I just had a look at his FB page & he just seems to have extreme religious views, so his comment about women I’d say is how he actually’s sad.

    • There are some lovely men on this site Marilyn. Please don’t tar them all with the same brush.

  2. Better and know what we are doing. No we are not dead. I am single and like to think I.can enjoy my life while still on this earth and that includes sex.

  3. I think that you are all reading between the lines. My wife is a vedry happy woman who has five children with me. We have seven grandchildren. We have been married for forty seven years together. Now it is rong to boast and the Bible says that we should not talk about what we do in the bedroom. At seventyn two I can ride a bicycle from Sydney to Newcastle or to Lithgo or to Goulbourne. I was an Australian champion. I have no medical conditions and I do not take any drugs whatsoever. Is that enough for you to consider if my wife is happy. You bet your life she is happy. I judge no person. What I am saying is what God is saying. God knows that I have my own youthful sins. I m not about to trade in my wife or practice treachery.

    6 REPLY
  4. What happens in my bedroom has nothing to do with any of you at all ? Need to keep some things private

  5. Iv got 1) husband married 45 yrs to him 3 daughters (1) son 12 grandchildren and a great life no complaints from this side, we married at 22 and 20 so yes we’re in our mid sixties And love life

  6. I think if those of us over 60 don’t know by now how to have safe sex we never will … Plus I don’t think we have the need to to have people researching in to our private sex lives at this time of life …. Think the money could be much better spent on Cancer research ect

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *