Sexual activity and STD rate up among seniors
February 2nd, 2012
06:30 PM ET

Sexual activity and STD rate up among seniors

New research published Thursday by the British Medical Journal shows that 80% of 50 to 90 years olds are sexually active.  And with that, cases of sexually transmitted diseases have more than doubled in this age group over the past 10 years.

“You never have to retire from sex,” says clinical psychologist Judy Kuriansky. “But you should always behave as the 20-30 year-olds do. You need to be cautious about it.”

Numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that incidences of syphilis and chlamydia in adults aged 45 to 64 have nearly tripled over the past decade. Cases of Gonorrhea are up as well.

“In general, I would say that older people are really enjoying their sexuality,” says Ian Kerner, sex therapist, CNNHealth.com contributor and founder of GoodInBed.com. “People can be sexual throughout their lives, until the day they die.”

Researchers are quick to point out that there’s a huge lack of data on STDs in older populations. The authors of the BMJ editorial also note that older women are more vulnerable physiologically.  “Post-menopausal changes to the vagina, such as thinning of the mucosa, narrowing and shortening of the vagina, and decreased lubrication leave women more vulnerable to minor genital injuries and microabrasions that facilitate the entry of pathogens,” they write.

With age, as parents teach their kids, comes responsibility. So why are parents exposing themselves to these avoidable risks?

“They just don’t think it can happen to them” says Kuriansky. “STIs (sexually transmitted infections) really started making news in the ’80s and ’90s. The fears and the warnings didn’t hit their generation.” They also didn’t expect to be sexual. “It’s the Jane Fondas of the world and men in their 80s like John Glenn, who divorced his wife and married a younger woman,” she says.

Kerner is quick to point out that the 50+ age group is one of the fastest-growing demographics for online dating. “They wouldn’t even necessarily classify themselves as older,” he says. “It’s often the second time around for them. They’ve been married, have adult children, and they don’t have the same concerns or the same stressors that other people might face.”

Interestingly, one study found that men aged 40+ who were taking drugs for erectile dysfunction were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with an STD in their first year of usage. However, that same study also found that those same men were significantly more likely to be diagnosed in the year prior to starting the medication. That suggests the drug doesn’t so much alter the risk-taking behavior, but rather facilitates it.

Older men can be wary of condom use because it can contribute to erectile dysfunction. Women assume since they’re above child-bearing years that condoms are unnecessary.

“Just as we spend a lot of time advising kids to practice safer sex, we need to do the same things for ourselves and our parents,” says Kerner.

And perhaps even our grandparents.

Experts purport more awareness from the media would go a long way. Kuriansky also suggests more questioning and counseling by physicians. “If you’re really going to do something about it,” she says, “you have to be tested for herpes and other viruses. Now, you have to request that. They’re not in routine blood tests. [They] should make it routine.”

soundoff (319 Responses)
  1. Dcvh

    If you are referring to John Glenn; former Astronaut and US Senator; he has been married to his wife since 1943. This has been his only marriage and they have never divorced. An apology to Mr. Glenn is in order.

    February 3, 2012 at 08:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Oliva

      They certainly do owe him an apology. Are the fact checkers on holiday?

      February 3, 2012 at 08:30 | Report abuse |
    • Ron

      Yeah, this casual slander of Glenn offended me too. Someone definitely owes Glenn an apology!

      February 3, 2012 at 15:08 | Report abuse |
    • Freddo

      HEY CNN ... WAKE UP!

      What did you do, go to the "who's dated who" website and see the picture of the young girl next to a picture of John Glenn? Note the name – it's Glenn's wife's maiden name (Anna Margaret Castor).

      Maybe CNN should hire people older than 14 to do fact checking – someone who understands that "facts " on the 'net generally aren't.

      And yes, CNN MUST issue a retraction. This is disgusting, and casts Glenn as a guy who chucked his morality to become an old stud... dumping his high school sweetheart after nearly 70 years of marriage for a sweet young thing.

      Pathetic, CNN. Simply pathetic.

      February 5, 2012 at 09:57 | Report abuse |
    • Lindsay

      Exactly you really need to check your facts before stating that someone notable like John Glenn married a younger woman. He's been married to his h.s sweetheart since 1943.

      February 5, 2012 at 21:27 | Report abuse |
  2. Spaceman Gym


    February 3, 2012 at 08:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Jorge

    Anybody that old who doesn't yet know how to properly use a condom is a flukish exception to the rule of Darwinism.

    February 3, 2012 at 09:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dorothy

      Really? All Darwin's theory really cares about is whether or not you've been able to pass on your genetic material before you die, which can happen with or without contracting an STD. The flukish exceptions are really the people actively avoiding passing on genetic material who do so anyway (or who want to pass it on but can't).

      February 4, 2012 at 12:22 | Report abuse |
    • E

      You obviously have no concept of what Darwinism is. When smart people use condems, they are actually increasing the proportions of dumb people, which counteracts survival of the fittest. Senior citizens are not reproducing, again making this have nothing to do with Darwin.

      February 5, 2012 at 21:23 | Report abuse |
    • Gloria Sims

      Believe it or not it is the World War II and the Vietnam generation who refuse to use condoms. That is why their offspring are doing the same thing. Like Dad, like mom. Just take a trip down history lane and find out how many people had STD's during that time. Grandma, Grandpa, Mom and Dad are not going to confess. Check the numbers for yourself. Go figure.

      February 6, 2012 at 10:10 | Report abuse |
  4. Dawn

    I like this article and i've experienced some issues. I'm 39 years old and i've become attracted to older men. The last guy i've dated is 52 years old and he was married for 25 years and has grown children, there were no issues there because he is now divorced. The problem is since he was married all those years he's not accustomed to wearing condoms so when we would try to have intercourse he would have a issue staying erect, with condom on. I like him a lot but i want to take precautions until we get really serious!!!

    February 3, 2012 at 09:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ohhhPleaseeeeee

      That's disgusting.

      February 3, 2012 at 09:31 | Report abuse |
    • anna

      YUK – too much information!

      February 3, 2012 at 12:18 | Report abuse |
    • The Woof

      You're having sex with him and that isn't serious already!? What part of this article didn't you understand?

      February 3, 2012 at 15:13 | Report abuse |
    • DGH49

      You’re a good, understanding woman. There sure are some prudes on this board!

      February 4, 2012 at 17:48 | Report abuse |
    • jzaks

      Please give Dr. Phil a call.

      February 5, 2012 at 06:42 | Report abuse |
    • Freddo

      Lady, we couldn't care less.

      February 5, 2012 at 09:58 | Report abuse |
    • icky poo

      Dawn, why are you doing your father? Does it have age spots?

      February 5, 2012 at 13:59 | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      Here's a High Five to you, Ms. Dawn. At least you're giving an older gent a chance. I'm a 57 year old guy, and these are lean times for guys in my age group. The really elderly ladies who like us aren't that interested in sex, and the younger ones aren't breaking down the door for a chance to get into bed with creepy old men with hair in their ears. You deserve a round of applause for making the world a happier place.

      February 5, 2012 at 18:52 | Report abuse |
    • Maelius

      Sounds like there may be more to the erect issues than using a condom. If that really is the case (sounds like he really has some level of ED though), experiment with different brands and material types (e.g. non-latex super thin like crown or lifestyle). They've come a long way and have to say that I'm quite happy with how much better they feel after the 20+ years that I've been sexually active. Some of them I have to check to make sure that they are still on as it can feel so much like I'm not wearing one.

      February 6, 2012 at 10:25 | Report abuse |
  5. beans

    Pretty sure they mean Buzz Aldrin and not John Glenn.

    February 3, 2012 at 09:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bill Mosby

      Heh, you better be right because Buzz has a tendency to punch people out who annoy him.

      February 4, 2012 at 12:24 | Report abuse |
    • Freddo

      Yeah, Buzz has been married 3 times – he's a hellraiser compared to JG. And if they meant Buzz, they should come forward and state that they messed up. In any case, they owe JG an apology. Other people will start citing this story as the source for their own misinnformation on JG, and that's just unfair to him.

      And yes, Aldrin will punch them out.

      February 5, 2012 at 10:03 | Report abuse |
  6. zephyr12345

    At 64, I would like to do "it" every day!

    February 3, 2012 at 11:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Danny

    Old news that said the same thing last summer. And the state in the US with the most VD is Florida!

    February 3, 2012 at 11:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Tony

    I am 74 years old and still have sex 2-3 times a week one way or another. That's what keeps me alive and young. Viagra not needed yet.......

    February 3, 2012 at 12:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dada

      Yeah, right.....you have a San Francisco bridge for sale too?

      February 3, 2012 at 16:04 | Report abuse |
  9. Future Old Man

    If I was 70-90 years old, I wouldn't care about wearing a rubber. I care right now because I am 26. I don't want to live 60 years with an STD, but I'll live with one for 5-10 years lol

    February 3, 2012 at 14:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Selena

      It isn't just about you! It's about the partners you have sex with, no matter how old you or they are.

      February 4, 2012 at 14:56 | Report abuse |
    • icky poo

      26: yet another stupid, selfish spreader. Those sores on your yoyo are a big turn off and so is the yellow discharge. Nobody's going to blow you now. Wear a glove every time and that includes oral work.

      February 5, 2012 at 14:02 | Report abuse |
    • Maelius

      And also keep in mind that you can contract Herpes and Syphilis from kissing too.

      February 6, 2012 at 13:37 | Report abuse |
  10. THX

    This statistic makes sense. The people who are seniors now were young people during the Hippie times. Free love and all that.

    February 3, 2012 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Maelius

      Actually it has more to do with the fact that they aren't as educated about it.

      February 6, 2012 at 13:38 | Report abuse |
  11. Scott

    If you get an STD at 80, even HIV, who cares? What's it going to do? Shorten your life by 20 years?

    February 3, 2012 at 16:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • icky poo

      Seniors don't get tested for HIV because nobody expects them to be banging. An aggressive strain of HIV that is undiagnosed and untreated kills healthy young people in 2-4 years in Africa. Geezers, with their other health problems, would drop even faster. Besides, HIV+ people can infect others in the community through contact with blood and other fluids, which is something seniors often experience with regular health problems. It isn't just about the geezer, it's about protecting everybody. Scott, you are a typically stupid man thining only about yourself.

      February 5, 2012 at 14:07 | Report abuse |
  12. FrauSchmitd

    I prefer to have sex with midgets.

    February 3, 2012 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. lee

    Really .... 50 to 90 ?
    What kind of demographic is that ?
    40 years is just about half of a century .... most demographics are in the ten year range.

    February 3, 2012 at 19:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Headed_to_h

    What kind of study uses an age group with a 40 year span? Seriously...

    February 3, 2012 at 21:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Mr Bigglesworth

    In the 15 to 100 year demographic many have active sex lives. Nice article.

    February 3, 2012 at 22:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. DGH49

    The author is sadly mistaken if they think the generation that lived through the sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s are unaware of STDs.

    February 4, 2012 at 03:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. maxine

    if my husband dies 1st i will not be having sex ever again.

    February 4, 2012 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Igor

    Way to go, Grandma!

    February 4, 2012 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Amy

    I guess I don't have to worry about the STD problem. Married 45 yaers and my husband only had sex with me once, that was on our wedding night. I guess once was enough for him. He just refused to have sex. Retired now and I've forgotten about sex, the things I can't forget is the lonelyness, anger, depression and hate.

    February 4, 2012 at 16:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lynn

      I thought I was the only one who had to live like that. I know what you mean about lonely, I told someone that being married and lonely is the worst lonely you can feel. I am religious and do not believe in cheating so I just was empty all the time. I divorced after 23 years when my kids got out of school, yes I had two children. My ex-husband told his uncle one night at a family dinner (the uncle was joking about sex) that we only had sex twice and I got pregnant both times. My heart goes out to you as most people think we are lying as they can not imagine living life celebate, it is not what I bargained for but what I got anyway and even after the divorce I am still celebate as I can not trust enough to have a relationship though I have tried.

      February 4, 2012 at 23:16 | Report abuse |
    • Wanda

      How sad Amy! I hope someday you find love.

      February 4, 2012 at 23:33 | Report abuse |
  20. Buckhippo

    I'm not sure what just happened.

    February 4, 2012 at 18:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Gretchen

    depressing! I'm 48, hubby 54 and we've been celibate for our entire 8+ yr marriage due to his health issues.

    February 4, 2012 at 22:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. huh?

    alot of it has to do with old foggies banging younger girls for a price.....meaning they pay 2 times...money first.

    February 5, 2012 at 16:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Ava

    50 is not a senior citizen...lol.

    February 5, 2012 at 22:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Jane

    Great! I just saw the news that SeniorsSinlgeDating.com is the best and most effective senior dating site for senior singles over 50! Many of our members are well-educated, successful, and fresh in mind.

    February 6, 2012 at 01:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. ﺶCHEﺶ

    What's all the wailing about?
    You guys need to worry more about your woman's "shortening of the va***gi****na". Never heard or seen a kitchen sink pipe shortening. It could be plugged though!

    February 6, 2012 at 09:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • WjNd

      twburr on February 8, 2011 The Best soluhd had a couple of sprit drinks before he started that normally works to wear off the nerves, to bad im a best man on 3rd april, and i dont know what to say LOL

      March 3, 2012 at 16:06 | Report abuse |
  26. primate

    Given the generally lower judgement abilities among persons both very young and very old, shall we put a lid on an upper age of consent as well as a lower? Maybe just switch the numbers around, top and bottom: 81 and 18. See how simple it is to solve problems?

    February 6, 2012 at 14:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. TWH

    Yuck. That's an image in my head that I wish wasn't there.

    February 6, 2012 at 15:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. brose

    To the ones yucking, and ewwing, take note you become who we are. You will soon learn, if you lucky or blessed enough to become a senior citizen, to realize you don't just f===k anymore, you enjoy love making like never before
    . Sixty+ and enjoying sex more than I ever did.

    February 9, 2012 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Annaliesa

    Studying to be a counselor, and this has come up in many of my classes! Older men are a especially hot commodity in the "senior" crowd – women live longer than men. Guys, if you make it to a very old age, rejoice! There will be no shortage of ladies.

    Honestly, I found these facts a bit icky when I first heard them. Then I thought about it and figured, "Hey, I don't want to stop having sex, wrinkles be damned!"

    February 11, 2012 at 16:52 | Report abuse | Reply
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    February 13, 2012 at 18:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Larry

    We need more tips on Sex education on youth and adult. Or more and more people have to go to STD dating sites like PositiveSingle.org.

    February 15, 2012 at 02:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Nat

    I don't have to worry about this stuff because I hadn't had sex with the old lady or any one else in 45 years.

    February 28, 2012 at 20:47 | Report abuse | Reply
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