Wow, driving across the United States is amazing! Well, actually I didn’t drive, Travis did. He’s a control freak and I was “just” a passenger. Poor me. Haha
I was going to give you a state by state description of my trip since it was amazing and I’d love to share it all with you. However, it’s really not relevant to what I want to talk about, so I’ll just say that I got to tour the Kinsey Institute which was incredible and I saw a bunch of old friends, lovers and made new friends. I also got to see a huge part of the US and I am totally in love with my country, all it’s imperfections included. My favorite state was South Dakota because it had the most touristy stuff to see. Oh, and I ate crickets in Youngstown Ohio because a friend of mine has the only insect farm in the US raising insects for human consumption (The Big Cricket Farm). One interesting side note is that mating crickets put off so much pheromones that people who were in the breeding tent (before they fixed the ventilation) would get super turned on and horny. We need to bottle that stuff.
In early June I had the awesome experience of speaking at Leading Age, a conference for Senior Living care givers and service providers. This was the first conference I’ve presented at that wasn’t sex or kink focused. My presentation was titled Yes There Is Sex After 40 . . 50 . . . 60.
I discussed the two biggest issues facing those of us over 60. The higher incidents in sexually transmitted infections and the need for long-term care facilities to have some type of sexual policy in place for their residents.
Recent statistics from the CDC have shown that the number of new HIV infections is actually growing faster in individuals over 50 than in people 40 years and under. 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..
There are many reasons why STI’s are so rampant in the older population. Such as, people of my generation are less likely to use condoms, both because they don’t consider themselves to be at risk of STIs and because they were never educated that condoms should be part of their sex lives. As people age there is the assumption that they no longer are sexually active. Doctors quit talking about sex and STIs. Older people are living longer and are in better health. As a result, they are remaining sexually active much later into life. And Viagra, enough said.
Then there are Long-term care facilities, which has the potential to cause even more issues when it comes to sexually active seniors.
Older people have sex, and why is this so difficult for us to think about?
Unfortunately, people’s discomfort with thinking about older people in this way has led to a kind of discrimination: We deny senior citizens the privacy to have a normal and healthy sex life, in other words sexual agency and pathologize those who engage in normal sexual behavior.
Very few facilities do anything to encourage safer sex or have any kind of policy at all regarding the sexual agency of their residents. I talked to someone last week who works at such a facility and they said that it’s only been in the last month that staff are required to knock on resident’s doors before entering. And it’s very uncommon to give resident’s privacy let alone sexual agency. A few facilities have created sexual rights polices (including one locally in Kirkland much to my happy surprise). These are the exception, not the rule. Most facilities are not prepared in anyway to handle their sexually active residents, many times just ignoring what’s happening until either a family member intervenes or someone contracts an STI or has consent issues. Then it becomes a huge mess.
My solution is for facilities to create a sexual rights policy for their residents and then educate their staff, residents AND the families of the residents about the policies and sexuality in general. Giving residents access to condoms and sex supplies is not only important from a safety point of view but also from the point of view that healthy sexuality enhances your life. Making sure that families understand that just because Mom is in her 90’s and has slight dementia, she still could be sexually active and that she has a right to her sexual agency,
Over the next few months I’m going to be working with a dear friend who is an architect and expert on senior living facilities. We are going to create a curriculum to take to long-term care facilities to address the need for a sexual rights policy, the need for private space and the need to educate staff, family and residents about sexuality in general. I’m excited about my new project. Wish me luck!