Though sexual health for older men and women is not something members of that age group may think about, local health professionals say it is more important than expected.
According to Howard Gamble, administrator of the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department, many older men and women do not think they can be at risk for sexually transmitted diseases or HIV.
However, he said anyone who is sexually active, regardless of age, should take the proper steps to be protected.
"Individuals who are sexually active need to practice safe sex by using a condom and limiting sexual partners," he said.
Gamble said older individuals are still at risk of getting an STD, including syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia infection, genital herpes, hepatitis B, genital warts and trichomoniasis. He said national trends show STDs and HIV are on the rise among the nation's boomers.
"Nationally, the number of older people with HIV/AIDS is growing, but this could be the result of better treatments for HIV and AIDS and not new infections among older individuals," Gamble said.
FIVE SEXUAL HEALTH FACTS:
- The people with the best all-around sex lives aren't swinging singles - they're the boring, married ones. That people in monogamous marriages have the richest sex lives is not just theory but quantifiable fact. According to a National Bureau of Economic Research study, "The happiness-maximizing number of sexual partners in the previous year is calculated to be one." What makes married sex so good? Says Dr. Bat Sheva Marcus, director of the Medical Center for Female Sexuality in Purchase, N.Y: "There is a great deal to be said for really knowing what turns your partner on, for knowing you can say or do what you want, and also knowing there will be another time soon to try that new thing again, even if it didn't quite work the first time around."
- The older women get, the sexier they feel. One reason women feel hotter as they get older: With the fear of pregnancy behind and children growing up, women feel free to devote their bodies to their own physical pleasure. Another reason: "Women have to learn about their bodies, which are more complicated than male bodies, and that takes time and experience," says Dr. Helen Fisher, a research professor of anthropology at Rutgers University.
- What you say can be as pivotal to passion as what you do. Researchers have found that words can have as powerful an influence as actions on the quality of your sex life. Telling your lover a secret right before sex, for instance, creates a feeling of intimacy that can enhance the physical experience. Want your erotic messages to have maximum impact? Whisper them inyour partner's left ear, where emotionally charged words connect better, according to research by Teow-Chong Sim of Sam Houston State University.
- Good looks don't necessarily make for good sex.
- Sex is a need, not a luxury. We're all so busy, there's a tendency to put sex way down on our ever-present lists of things to do, somewhere above cleaning out the garage but below taking the poodle to the groomer and deciding what to have for dinner. And that's a mistake.
Locally, Gamble said disease is not as big of an issue for boomers or seniors, as only 3 percent of reported AIDS/HIV cases in 2011 were among individuals age 60 and older.
Gamble said the biggest factors in sexual health for older individuals are illness, disabilities, medicines and surgeries, which can affect sexual health.
He cited health problems such as arthritis, chronic pain, dementia, diabetes, heart disease, incontinence and stroke as the main hindrances to sexual activity among older generations.
Any person suffering from medical issues should consult their doctors before engaging in sexual activity, and Gamble said anyone wishing to be tested for STDs or HIV can call the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department at 304-234-3682.