Sex and the Single Senior
By Ezekiel J. Emanuel
• Jan. 18, 2014
WHAT is happening in retirement communities, assisted living facilities and nursing homes? You might imagine quiet reading, crossword puzzles, bingo, maybe some shuffleboard. Think again. Think about sex — unsafe sex.
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 to screen for colon cancer, amounting to about 5 percent of all those on Medicare.
Numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show rapid increases in S.T.D.’s among older people. Between 2007 and 2011, chlamydia infections among Americans 65 and over increased by 31 percent, and syphilis by 52 percent. Those numbers are similar to S.T.D. trends in the 20- to 24-year-old age group, where chlamydia increased by 35 percent and syphilis by 64 percent. Experts suggest there are four main factors contributing to the rise in S.T.D.’s among older Americans.
First, retirement communities and assisted living facilities are becoming like college campuses. They cram a lot of similarly aged people together, and when they do, things naturally happen. I mentioned these numbers to a friend, and she was not surprised. When her father moved into an assisted-living facility, she said, three women came by to introduce themselves within 30 minutes. And it wasn’t to compare Medicare pharmacy plans and premiums.
Second, older people are living longer and are in better health. As a result, they are remaining sexually active much later into li