| Thu, Apr 10, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

STDs in Older Adults

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

sexually transmitted diseasesSex can be an uncomfortable topic to discuss. So it can be even more uncomfortable to talk about some of the unintended consequences of sex and the need to protect yourself.

And if you think we’re talking about teenagers, think again. Older Americans are having sex, but they aren’t apparently all having safe sex. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that between 2007 and 2011, chlamydia infections among Americans 65 and over increased by 31%, and syphilis by 52%.

Why are the Elderly Contracting STDs?

The good news here is that Americans these days are living longer, generally enjoying good health and remaining sexually active for longer. A 2007 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that almost three-quarters of Americans ages 57 to 64 were sexually active. And while the percentage dropped as participants’ ages went up, more than a quarter of the 75-to-85-year-olds were sexually active.

Social and environmental factors that may have an impact on older adults remaining sexually active include:

  • Aging Americans may find themselves dating again after losing a spouse.
  • Many live in assisted living and retirement communities that provide ample opportunity for socializing and meeting new people.
  • Drugs that treat erectile dysfunction may affect the number of older men having sex and the risks they’re willing to take while doing so.
  • One individual may be dating several partners—or dating someone who has several partners.

The danger is that many older adults don’t understand the need to have safe sex. After all, they grew up before the safe-sex era. They may think of “protection” as something that applies only to pregnancy, which is probably no longer a risk. They may have never used a condom before, or not for many years.

Sex Education—Once More

It’s important to make sure you understand how to stay safe if you’re sexually active. As hard as it may be, one step you should take is to talk with your doctor about your sex life. If he or she doesn’t bring it up in an office visit, make sure you do.

Your doctor may recommend screenings for STDs. Medicare Part B covers tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and Hepatitis B once every 12 months. In addition, you’re covered for up to two behavioral counseling sessions each year if you have an increased risk of infection. However, you need to receive the counseling from a primary care practitioner in a primary care setting, such as a doctor’s office, or it may not be covered.

After you talk with your doctor, have a frank conversation with your sexual partners about minimizing health risks. After all, practicing safe sex and preventing STDs are important whether you’re 25 or 85.

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.


Your Guide to Medicare’s Preventive Services: A comprehensive online booklet outlining which preventive services Medicare covers, and how often.

Medicare & You: The U.S. government’s official Medicare handbook, available online.

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