Gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis cases soar in retirement villages – calls for sex-ed for over-50s

By Staff 6 Min Read

More older adults are now having risky sex due to a combination of factors, including the emergence of Viagra, dating apps, rising divorce rates, and the growth of retirement villages, experts say

Rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have doubled among over-50s in the last decade, leading to calls for sex-education for the baby boomer generation.

More older adults are now having risky sex due to a combination of factors including the emergence of Viagra, dating apps, rising divorce rates and the growth of retirement villages, experts say.

Rates of STIs including gonorrhoea and syphilis have soared by almost a fifth in just four years among UK baby boomers. But experts have said the real numbers are likely far higher as embarrassment and lack of access to sexual health services likely meant many cases go unreported.

Rather than simply focussing on the young, sexual health services need to be extended to older generations, becoming part of routine healthcare for the over-50s instead of a source of embarrassment, researchers have said.

Professor Justyna Kowalska, of the Medical University of Warsaw presented her findings on how to manage the rise in sexually transmitted infections in older adults at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Barcelona.

“’People do not become asexual with age, Prof. Kowalska said. “In fact, with preventive medicine and improved lifestyles people are enjoying a healthy life and sex life for longer.

“Older people often find greater satisfaction in their sex lives due to experience and known expectations. We need more role models like Samantha Jones in the TV show Sex and the City to challenge stereotypes around older sexuality.”

In England the number of STIs recorded in the over 45s increased by 18 per cent between 2015 and 2019, jumping from 31,902 to 37,692. Meanwhile a survey of sexual health in older adults in England found that half of men and almost a third of women aged 70 and over reported being sexually active.

In a similar study conducted in Sweden 46 per cent of individuals aged 60 years and older reported being sexually active, one in 10 aged 90 and above. The lack of sex education while this generation were at school combined with no risk of unwanted pregnancies can heighten risky behaviour Prof. Kowalska explained.

Sex education programmes need to be tailored to the over 50s, the professor said, adding: “Sexual health campaigns are focused on young people and overlook the needs and experiences of those aged 50 and older.

“Health promotion messages give the impression that condoms and concerns about STIs only apply to young people. But the dangers of undiagnosed and untreated STIs such as HPV-related cancers and onwards transmission are very real, particularly in this age group who are more likely to have underlying conditions such as heart disease and stroke.”

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