Cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are on the increase in over-65s across the UK, official figures show. Data released from Public Health England has revealed there were 2,108 known instances of older men with STIs and 472 cases of older women in 2018. When compared with 2014’s figures, that’s a 23 per cent rise.
The increase has been put down to a number of factors, including dating apps, which are meaning people are remaining sexually active for longer. The likes of Tinder and Grindr are particularly popular with older divorcees, helping them to hook up with each other.
While younger people tend to worry about unplanned pregnancies, the older generation do not have this concern and therefore often don’t use condoms. This leaves them at risk of STIs, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.
Katherine O’Brien, from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, told The Sun: “This data shows it’s not just teenagers who need sex education, but also their parents and grandparents. It is so important that we recognise that people don’t stop having sex once they reach their fifties.
“Rising divorce rates and increasing numbers of people staying single for longer will mean many older people are having new relationships.”
The trend towards more over-65s having STIs has been building for some time, with separate figures released by Public Health England last year showing 2017’s stats. That year, 1,608 older people were diagnosed with an STI, up from 1,411 in 2016.
Talking about sex can be difficult for people of all ages, but the problem is exacerbated when the conversation needs to happen between generations. Adults feel uncomfortable talking to their elderly parents about their sex lives and there are few services focused on this area.
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK's charity director, said: “Sex continues to be important for many of us well into old age, but for some reason the whole topic remains taboo in some circles. This is a shame and it also means that sexually active older people are at greater risk of STIs than they need to be or ought to be.
“Health professionals should be open about discussing sexual health with older people and certainly not immediately jump to the conclusion that sex is irrelevant once you pass a certain birthday. Public health messages around sexual health and STI prevention also need to recognise the reality that sex is a part of many people's later lives and aim to be inclusive of people of all ages.”
As well as making it easier for older people to get together and have sex, dating apps are also promoting a more casual attitude. This means they’re not choosing just one sexual partner and sticking with them but switching fairly regularly too.
If you think this is an issue affecting an elderly relative of your own, you should think about broaching the subject with them. Otherwise, look for a healthcare professional who could talk to them and encourage them to take the necessary precautions.