Most people associate sexually transmitted diseases with the younger generations. But, the truth is that STDs in nursing homes and among the elderly population are on the rise, although there’s not much public attention regarding this growing health crisis.
So why do retirement homes have high STD rates? We’ll answer that question below.
At Rapid STD Testing, we believe everyone should be well-informed regarding their sexual health, and that includes getting regular STD tests. With over 2,500 nationwide facilities, we make it simple to get confidential same-day STD testing and stay in control of your sex life and general health.
Why have rates of sexually transmitted diseases among seniors and baby boomers consistently increased? According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, STD rates for populations aged 55 and over are rising sharply, with no signs of slowing.
A shortage of knowledge regarding STDs and the spread of disease, combined with misconceptions surrounding sexuality in nursing homes, are the primary reasons. However, they’re not the only explanations for the rise in rates:
Misconceptions: Many older people feel that because they don’t have to worry about pregnancy, they can have unprotected sexual activities. However, anyone can get an STD, regardless of their age.
Stigma: Older people may be embarrassed to have sexual issues or STDs at this late stage in life and therefore avoid seeing health care providers for testing and treatment. When this happens, they’re likely to pass their infections on to other people if they remain sexually active.
Misinformation: When baby boomers and the generation before them were in school, they had limited sex education. If they did have sex ed, the course likely taught abstinence. As a result, many elderly people don’t have the correct information about protection and how STDs can pass between people. For example, they may not know they can get infected by having unprotected oral or anal sex.
Men’s ED Meds: For men, drugs like Viagra (sildenafil) and Cialis increase their libido, making it easier for them to maintain an erection and intimate relationship. In light of this, many men who typically would not have been having sex due to erectile dysfunction can stay sexually active and potentially pass on STDs to their partners.
Women’s Meds: Women also have the option to take prescription medication if they want to increase their libido. Estrogen hormone replacement, vaginal estrogen, lubricants, and moisturizers are all options that can make sex after menopause more enjoyable. For women with low libido, new drugs like Addyi and Vyleesi are an option as well, but the FDA hasn’t yet approved them for postmenopausal use.
Physical Health: The longer someone is alive, the more chance they have of getting a health condition that can weaken their immune system and make them more vulnerable to STDs. Furthermore, postmenopausal women often suffer from thinning vaginal tissues and dryness. During sex, these thinning tissues are susceptible to microabrasions that allow an infection to enter their body.
As STDs in assisted living facilities and nursing homes steadily increase, it’s essential for seniors to know the risks associated with having unprotected sex. The most common sexually transmitted diseases in elderly populations include gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV, and other contact-spread infections like Shigella and Meningococcal disease.
Gonorrhea can cause an infection in the throat, genitals, or rectum, and the disease spreads through unprotected oral, anal, or vaginal sex with an infected person. Regarding symptoms, women may experience pain or burning during urination, vaginal bleeding, or increased vaginal discharge. Male symptoms include painful or swollen testicles, burning during urination, or penile discharge.
Chlamydia is another STD that spreads by having unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex with someone who already has the disease. The worst part about chlamydia is that it often doesn’t show symptoms. When it does, it’s usually several weeks after the initial infection.
Female symptoms include burning during urination and abnormal vaginal discharge. Men may also experience burning during urination, penile discharge, or pain and swelling in their testicles.
According to CDC data, there were 3,100 new HIV infections in 2019 for people aged 55 and older. The highest age group was 25 to 34, with 13,800 new infections. Signs and symptoms of HIV include fever, muscle aches, rash, and chills about two to four weeks after the initial infection.
Shigella Flexneri is an infection that spreads person-to-person through close contact. It’s most common in daycare centers and nursing homes, as people share many areas and can spread the disease quickly. Symptoms include fever, stomach pain, and diarrhea (sometimes bloody). You can learn more about Shigella Flexneri on the Rapid STD Testing blog.
Neisseria Meningitidis, the cause of meningococcal disease, is a bacteria that spreads through close physical contact, such as living together or kissing. It’s highly contagious and can spread quickly throughout assisted living facilities. Symptoms include a headache, sudden high fever, nausea and vomiting, a reddish-purple skin rash, light sensitivity, and feeling weak. You can learn more about Neisseria Meningitidis by heading to the Rapid STD Testing blog.
Despite STD rates in nursing homes increasing, there are still ways for sexually active seniors to protect themselves against infection. Even skilled nursing facilities with excellent patient-staff ratios may have trouble stemming the spread if enough people become infected. Here are a few ways that seniors can have a satisfying and healthy sex life and protect against STDs:
Transparency: While it may seem awkward, it’s important to have open talks about education and prevention with seniors. Staying well-informed regarding the correct ways to use protection and the risk of getting an STD can stem the rise of STDs in nursing homes and the elderly population.
Facilities Making Protection Available: Healthcare clinics often have free condoms available for patients. Likewise, nursing homes should make condoms available to the residents and ensure they know how to use them properly to help reduce STD rates in seniors.
Getting Regular STD Tests: The best way to protect oneself (besides abstinence) is by getting regular STD tests. At Rapid STD Testing, we offer a 10-panel STD test that makes it fast, simple, and confidential to know your status.
If you or your elderly friend or family member is sexually active, getting regular STD tests should be a priority. Fortunately, at Rapid STD Testing, we have nationwide locations that make it convenient for anyone to get tested regularly.
Getting Treated Fast: If you get a rapid STD test from one of our facilities and it comes back positive, it’s essential to get fast treatment. An assisted-living resident can request an appointment with their in-house doctor or nurse practitioner, visit their primary care physician, or go to an urgent care facility. Most STDs are easily curable upon taking a course of treatment.
Telling Your Partners: It’s not the easiest conversation to have, but if you test positive for an STD, you must contact your previous partners immediately and tell them to get tested, too. Then, you can prevent someone from unknowingly spreading the disease.
For sexually active seniors, the rates of STDs in nursing homes have been rising faster than ever. Fortunately, you or your elderly friend or family member can protect yourself from getting infected by using protection and getting regular STD tests.
Call Rapid STD Testing at (866) 872-1888 and schedule your same-day STD test now.