More talk on senior sex and sexuality needed, expert says

0:00

The silence around senior sex and sexuality is contributing to increasing rates of sexually transmitted infections, a sexual health expert says.

Dr Catherine Barrett from the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University believes more discussion is needed to address growing issues such as STIs.

“There is a broadly held notion in society that older people shouldn't be sexual, that it's gross,” she tells SBS's Insight, "and I think that contributes to a silence around sexuality in older people.

"It stops us preventing older women from being sexually assaulted. It contributes to sexually transmitted infections not being addressed."

Dr Barrett adds: "I would like to see more open conversations about sex and sexuality and I think that would make the world of a difference to a number of people."

SENIORS AND SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS

Of all the age groups, seniors have the lowest number of STIs. But according to Department of Health and Ageing, the rate of STI diagnoses in older Australians is growing faster than any other group.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics also reports that of all the sexually transmitted infections, elderly Australians are most likely to have herpes, with nine per cent of people aged 75 and older affected. Syphilis and HIV notifications are also most common in middle-aged men.

WHY ARE STI RATES INCREASING IN OLDER AUSTRALIANS?

Dr Mary Stewart, a medical officer at Family Planning NSW, told Insight that women aged 40 and over are less likely to insist on condom use than younger women because they don't need to prevent pregnancy.

“They feel that there's no need for contraception… They're not concerned about an STI's effect on their future fertility.”

Older men with erectile problems might be avoiding condoms because they find them an added impediment to sex.

THE CHANGING SEXUAL BEHAVIOURS OF SENIORS

High divorce rates amongst seniors and more relaxed attitudes to sexuality are resulting in changing sexual behaviours of seniors and more sexual partners.

With internet dating, seniors, like Joy and George Kimpton, have a new and acceptable forum to meet new sexual partners.


Joy and her husband George met online when they were in their seventies. After being a widower for seven years, Joy wanted to meet other men and move on with her life.

She told Insight sex and sexual attraction were important factors when she first signed up to the dating site.

“I decided that I didn't want to be on my own any more. I found it very depressing,” she explains on Insight.

“I was looking for a man, not so much to marry… but I wanted a man that I could go to the movies with, that we could have dinner with. And if it led to other things that would be fine.”

George believes that the notion that sexuality in older people is 'gross' unfairly diminishes the intimacy that seniors can have.

“The trouble with that attitude is that it doesn't take into account the relationship that people like us can have. It's such a beautiful thing,” he says.

“It's lovely to roll over in the morning in bed and find her there and snuggle up. If you can have a beautiful intimate relationship, you can't describe it.”

Tonight's Insight 'Good Old Sex' discusses the sex lives of older Australians. Catch the full episode at 8.30PM on SBS ONE.

You can join the discussion by using the #insightsbs hashtag on Twitter or by commenting on Insight's Facebook page.

WATCH A PREVIEW CLIP

Doreen Wendt-Weir, 84, is the author of 'Sex in Your Seventies'. Her adult children have at times felt embarrassed about the book and about Doreen's openness about sex. Doreen says sex in her 70s was the best she ever had thanks to chemistry between her and her partner.

Source SBS

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch