Sex, Lies, and Ensure: The Sexual Habits of the Over-55 Set

Posted on January 5, 2015

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Anyone who has ever visited an assisted living facility or nursing home has probably come away with the impression that the #1 athletic pastime of residents consists of lining up at the dining hall doors, well before meal time is scheduled to begin. If so, you’d be wrong. Not only wrong, but seriously wrong. 

The Department of Health and Human Services released a little-noticed report on Medicare a few months ago that had this startling statistic: In 2011 and 2012, 2.2 million beneficiaries received free sexually transmitted disease screenings and counseling sessions. And more than 66,000 received free H.I.V. tests.

The number of Medicare enrollees who took advantage of free S.T.D. tests is about the same as the number who received free colonoscopies. STD’s among the older set is skyrocketing, rivaling those in the 20-24-year-old age group. Retirement communities and assisted living facilities are becoming like college campuses. They cram a lot of similarly aged people together, they give those people a lot of free time, and the parents of said people are elsewhere. For these reasons, things naturally happen.

A close friend of Life in the Boomer Lane had parents living in one of the huge retirement communities in Florida, consisting of people who dined at 4:30 PM and took all uneaten food home with them, along with sugar packets, creamers and napkins. It would be reasonable to assume that early dining implied early-to-bed.  It wouldn’t occur to one that early dining left more hours in the evening for sexual frolic.

LBL’s friend’s mom was a retired nurse.  When the wife of the couple who leaved nearby was dying, she was there a lot, helping the husband of the sick woman. One day after the woman died, LBL’s friend’s mom noticed another resident headed toward her unit, holding a pie. LBL’s friend’s mom happily assumed the pie was for her, a thank you for being such a good neighbor and friend to the dying woman. She stepped toward her door. The other women became noticeably sheepish, kept walking, and knocked, instead, on the door of the deceased woman.  It didn’t take long.

Older people are living longer and are in better health. As a result, they are remaining sexually active much later. Several major surveys, including the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project and the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, report that among people age 60 and older, more than half of men and 40 percent of women are sexually active. And, in case you have misplaced your glasses and haven’t reading anything in a number of years, there are about 10,000 articles in print and online about the glories of sex in later years.

More sex has its advantages and its disadvantages.  The biggest advantage of more sex is sex. The biggest disadvantage is STDs.  Seniors tend not to use condoms, and they tend not to visit a doctor when symptoms arise. The senior population has enough problems with arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, and unsavory happenings in their nether parts. They may tend to overlook rogue rashes, itching, burning, and general discomfort. They join the ranks of Christopher Columbus, Napoleon, and any number of current celebs on the STD wagon train.

If you are a male, and are already living in an over-55 community or assisted living and are single, bravo. Your sex life must be booming. If you are a woman, good luck. The field is quite competitive. Females outnumber males 3:1.  Better start baking those pies.

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