Doctors should talk to older patients about sexual intimacy

Published: Thursday, December 1, 2022 - 5:01pm

Sex is good for your health later in life, but, like younger people, older adults are at risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, STIs have more than doubled in the past 10 years among adults 65 and older, making it more important than ever to talk about sex.

There’s a lot of shame when it comes to sex, said Bre Thomas, the CEO of Affirm, a nonprofit committed to making sexual and reproductive healthcare accessible by coordinating Arizona’s Title X grant.

"There's a lot of shame for younger adults. There's a lot of shame for middle aged folks, and there's a lot of shame for older adults," Thomas said. 

She says doctors should be asking about sexual activity as part of their routine checkups.

"There are certain things that are lifespan issues: healthy eating, blood pressure, sexual sexual activity [and] sexuality, and if you aren't able to talk about all of those things along the continuum, you're missing huge segments of the population and  what they might need," she said. "You are their trusted source."

Talking about sex may be ignored since sex education is often framed as preventing pregnancy. Yet anyone can contract an STI, no matter how old they are and there can be health consequences if it's not treated. 

"Again, you know, there's no shame in having more than one partner," said Thomas. "There's not shame in having sex and there's no shame contracting an STI. You just need to be able to take care of yourself and talk to your physician about it."

Aging Health + Medicine