Dating is no longer only for the young. More women over 50, either divorced or widowed, are entering the dating game than ever before. After years of being in a monogamous relationship, beginning a new sexual relationship can be confusing, and at the same time, exciting. But for many, practicing safe sex and initiating conversations with potential partners or even their doctor is a new and frightening experience.
Concerns of Women Over 50
Senior women participated in focus groups at the University of Florida to discuss their knowledge of sexual health, their concerns about safe sex practices, difficulties in finding partners, using condoms and where to find credible information about their sexual health.
Dr. Cynthia Morton, who conducted the study found that many older women feel uncomfortable talking to their doctors about these issues. The results also showed that the women understood the importance of using a condom, they may also worry that demanding condom use could end the relationship.
The women in the focus groups indicated that they were open to finding ways to negotiate condom use and discussions with potential partners about STDS. They also wanted strategies to better discuss these issues with their doctors. One of the problems they discussed was the lack of resources for sexual health issues aimed at older women.
Another concern was that doctors believed the women already had the information about sexual health and were not understanding of what the women needed to have fulfilling sex lives.
The Importance of Accessible Information
For many women over 50, sex education wasn't taught in schools during the years they attended. HIV/AIDs wasn't around. STDs, while around, weren't discussed openly as they are today. The lack of knowledge is showing up in the number of diagnoses of STDs.
- According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, STDs in older men and women are on the rise. Twenty-seven percent of all people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. are over 50 years old.
- The British journal, Student BMJ, indicates that new diagnoses of HIV doubled in those over 50 years old between 2000 and 2009.
- The diagnoses of common sexually transmitted diseases have also doubled in 50 to 90 year olds within the past 10 years.
Condoms, often viewed as a method of birth control, help to prevent the spread of STDs but according to a 2010 AARP sex study only 20 percent of sexually active individuals use a condom on a regular basis and only 12 percent of men and 32 percent of women used a condom every time. These numbers were even less for individuals over the age of 45.
While information and education are needed for persons over the age of 50 for understanding safe sex and prevention of contracting an STD, more is also needed about symptoms. Not understanding symptoms can lead to a delay in seeking medical attention, allowing the STD to worsen and be harder to treat.
Finally, as we age, our immune systems weaken and cannot fight infection as they did when we were younger. When exposed to an STD, our bodies may not be able to fight it off as easily.
"Older Women Lack Important Information About Sexual Health," 2011, Sept 16, Staff Writer, Medical News Today
"Sexually Transmitted Diseases Increasing Among Post 50s," 2012, Feb 3, Staff Writer, The Huffington Post
"Women Over 50 & STDs,", 2012, Staff Writer, Women's Health