Q: I have a rather uncomfortable question. A friend of mine in her 70s dates quite a bit and has intimate relationships without protection. I am concerned about her contracting HIV/AIDS or some other communicable diseases. Is it my role to play “mother” and coach her on what the younger generation today would call “safe sex?” She said that such sexual diseases would take so long to kill her that she probably wouldn’t care. Many thanks.
A: It’s hard to define the parameters of a good friendship. There’s a line between complete honesty and honoring boundaries. One approach would be to present some facts. Knowing she was making an informed decision might make you feel less responsible.
Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, oncologist and vice provost of the University of Pennsylvania, recently wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times titled “Sex and the Single Senior.” Much of the information for this column is from his article.
Emanuel writes that we assume retirement communities, assisted living facilities and nursing homes offer quiet and safe activities for their residents such as reading, crossword puzzles, Bingo and maybe some shuffleboard. “Think again,” he writes, “Think about sex — unsafe sex.”
The good news is that older adults are being screened for sexually transmitted diseases. And Medicare is paying. In 2011 and 2012, 2.2 million Medicare beneficiaries received such screening and counseling.
The bad news is the increase of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among older adults, as reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Between 2007 and 2011, chlamydia infections among the 65 and over increased by 31 percent; syphilis by 52 percent. Surprisingly, these increases are similar to those in the 20- to 24-year-old age group.