Sex education classes tend to take place around the end of middle school or the beginning of high school, when most of us are just becoming sexually active. Now, more and more research shows sex ed should also be taught in nursing homes. A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Portland has found that men over the age of 60 who pay for sex do so more frequently, and with less protection as they get older.
"There is a nearly universal perception that older men do not pay for, or even engage sexually with regular frequency," said lead study author Dr. Christine Milrod in a statement. "This view may contribute to a false sense of security for both clients and sex workers during their encounters, and may lead to less protective strategies than with younger purchasers of sex."
Milrod and her colleagues assessed condom usage and sexual risk taking among 208 men between the ages of 60 and 84 who admitted to soliciting sex workers. All men participating in the survey were found through a bevy of sex provider review websites and discussion boards. Just over 30 percent of the participants had been diagnosed with an STD at some point in their life, including 10.2 percent who were diagnosed with gonorrhea; 10.1 percent with genital warts; 7.8 percent with genital herpes; and 5.3 percent with chlamydia.
Nearly 60 percent of the sample reported not always using protection with sex workers, while 95 percent said they avoided protection for manual masturbation and 91 percent said they avoided protection for oral sex. As these men got older, the likelihood of them using a condom declined. Rates of unprotected sex skyrocketed among 29.2 percent of the men who reported having an "all-time favorite" sex provider. Men who reported more unprotected sex were also more likely to be diagnosed with an STD.
"In addition, the exchange of emotional intimacy during the so-called 'Girlfriend Experience' as well as the possibility of being viewed as an elderly low-risk client who engages with only one or a very limited number of providers may contribute to a relaxation of boundaries and a false sense of security in avoiding STIs," Milrod said.
What's worse is that these older adults didn't seem to comprehend the risks they were putting themselves up against. Around 77 percent of the men said the likelihood of them becoming infected with HIV was "low." Only 62 percent of them reported getting tested for HIV. Although only 57.2 percent of men reported talking with a doctor about sex since turning 60, 82.2 percent of those conversations were initiated by the patient.
"Medical and mental health clinicians should not assume that old age is a barrier to paying for sex, particularly among the generations that began engaging in sexual activity prior to the epidemic emergence of the HIV virus," the research team concluded.
As much as young people cringe at the idea, a growing number of older men and women remain sexually active as they age. A study published in the February 2015 edition of the Archives of Sexual Behavior included surveys with 6,201 men and women between the ages of 50 and 90; and while around 31 percent of men and 20 percent of women reported kissing and petting on a regular basis, an upward of 54 percent of men and 31 percent of women also reported having sex at least twice a month. And safe sex isn't just something they teach in a classroom — it's integral to health.
Source: Milrod, C. et al. American Journal of Men's Health. 2016.