It seems that sexual wisdom does not always come with age. A new study conducted at the University of Florida has found that sexually active women over 50 are not getting adequate information from physicians or the media about safe sex practices.
The study, published in the Journal of Consumer Affairs, was spearheaded by Dr. Cynthia Morton, who researches issues related to how we perceive messages, especially those messages that affect our social and medical health.
It's no secret that people over 50 are having sex — a study by the Women's Health Initiative found that 63 percent of women over 50 are actually satisfied with their sex lives. Seniors living around other seniors are especially active and if anything most seniors want to be having more sex.
Even the AARP channel has its own resident “sexpert,” Dr. Doree Lynn, psychologist and author of Sex For Grownups: The Truths, Lies, and Must-Tries for Great Sex After Fifty. Lynn is a firm believer that, “people who have sex, by themselves or with a partner, are healthier.”
But are these seniors having healthy sex? Morton's research suggests the answer is a tricky one: many seniors are aware of the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, but often do not have knowledge of the most up-to-date preventative techniques. They are aware of the problem but not the solution.
Morton writes that seniors are “uncomfortable about seeking health information from their regular physician who may erroneously believe that they already possess the knowledge.” So the problem is compounded by the fact that even healthcare professionals are not aware there is a problem.
Condom use is also complicated. The study found that while condom use among seniors is lower than it should be, the real issue is one of miscommunication and deflection.
Again, Morton: “Although they know the importance of condom use in avoiding STDs, they may avoid negotiating condom use with their partners in an effort to avoid conflict or rejection.”
At such a late stage in life, seniors may be scared of scaring off partners because it may be hard to find another one.
It's interesting that Morton specializes in advertising persuasion; that perspective may help us see a solution. Morton, among others, believes that there needs to be better attention given to seniors who have sex; instead of ignoring them or viewing them as some sort of novelty we need to recognize them as relevant members of a sexual community.
They are having sex and should be afforded health information. Morton believes that media and other social outlets can be instrumental in educating seniors about safe sex.