Who’s Having the Talk with Grandma?

As Valentine’s Day approaches, love is in the air, and Cupid is busy …

Okay, no use stalling, I’m just going to say it: Someone in your life who is over 60 is having sex. Lots of sex. Probably more than you.

Maybe it’s Mom. Or Grandma. But when they tell you, “That’s when I watch Jeopardy, please don’t call during that time” … they may not be spending the evening with Alex Trebek.

Which is great, right? No one wants an aging loved one to be lonely. Finding oneself suddenly single can be devastating; there’s lots of self-talk about never being happy again. And then they meet someone – in church, in their neighborhood, online … maybe even in their senior living community.

And cue the music … enter romance. And let’s say it’s a lot more free-and-easy than earlier in their lives. No worries about getting pregnant or kids barging in at the very worst moment; the 18-hour days of over commitments and obligations are in the rearview mirror. Viagra has lent a strong assist. This is the time to live without restriction! And they are.

According to the CDC, there were 82,938 cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia reported among Americans 45 and older in 2016. Last year’s figures are not yet available, but year-over-year increases have been the trend since at least 2012. While all three STDs can be cured with antibiotics, untreated cases have severe consequences like chronic pain, fatigue and memory loss … ironically, often mistaken as the consequences of natural aging.

Since this group was happily married (or too busy to care) during the “safe sex” campaigns of the ‘80s and ‘90s, there’s some education that needs to occur. And … who’s having the talk with Grandma?

The National Institute of Aging/National Institutes of Health suggests the following:

  • An understanding, accepting attitude can help promote a more comfortable discussion of sexuality. Try to be sensitive to verbal and other cues.
  • Don’t assume that an older person is heterosexual, no longer sexually active, or does not care about sex.
  • Just engaging in normal conversation about their activities … “So, are you dating anyone?” … might elicit a smile or even a giggle and open the door for a very natural conversation.
  • Be upfront. “It’s been a while since you last dated … do you want to talk about safe sex?” It may or may not bring the conversation to a screeching halt. But, that’s where a pamphlet comes in handy. Below are a couple of options for you to download and keep in your pocket.

Educating mom or grandma about safe sex probably wasn’t on your to-do list for 2018. But think of it as a special Valentine for someone you really, really love.  For more information visit  http://www.healthinaging.org/files/documents/tipsheets/safe_sex_for_seniors.pdf