Oh, the good old days, when having “the talk” only required eye-rolling and righteous indignation on your part. Well, welcome to Part Deux, the uncomfortable sequel where you sit down with Mom or Dad to explain to them what they need to know to stay healthy and “active” in today’s world. Eeep! Why, oh why, is this something you’d volunteer to do, you may be asking? Well, STIs (sexually transmitted infections) are skyrocketing among the 60-plus demographic. In fact, Health Canada reported that between 2005 and 2015, this demographic experienced a 142 percent increase in chlamydia, an 87 percent increase in gonorrhoea and a 5 percent increase in syphilis. Here are a few tips to get the conversation started.
There are several reasons why STI rates are on the rise among seniors. For starters, people are living longer and staying healthier than they used to. In fact, with so many treatments for sexual dysfunction on the market, more and more people are having active sex lives well into their 80s.
Late-life divorce rates are also higher than ever, which means people are finding themselves back on the dating scene in their 60s—armed with outdated information. Case in point, many seniors are not using condoms because they associate them with birth control, rather than protection against STIs.
All things considered, talking with your parent about staying safe while dating is important, but that doesn’t make the task any easier. Your best bet is to go in with a plan. Start by setting some goals for the conversation, such as letting your parent know that sex and dating has changed over the last few decades and that STIs are a growing reality in all age groups. By stressing that anyone can contract an STI, no matter their age, you’ll be able help them understand that using condoms and getting tested for STIs regularly is a standard health practice. And, just as importantly, that treatments for STIs are better today than ever, especially when diagnosed early.
Although it may be tempting to get the conversation over with by blurting out everything you need to say at once, it’s probably wiser to take a slower approach. Try introducing a less awkward, but related topic (like dating in general) and gauge their response. Do they seem open? Do they seem defensive? Can you hear them mentally counting the doors and windows? How they respond will give you some insight on how to proceed.
The last thing you want is for your parent to feel spoken down to. Remember, they do have more life experience than you and have likely earned your respect. It’s not your job to tell them how to live, but it’s okay to express concern and to be available to help them navigate this new chapter in life. Keep your conversation on track by staying positive and genuinely listening to their point of view. On that note, keep in mind that people’s views about sex have changed a lot over the years and that your parent’s views on dating could be generational. It’s important to keep calm and not to get frustrated if their views are more traditional than yours or if they simply aren’t open to having “the talk” with you.
If they won’t talk, consider leaving some brochures or printouts around the house or sending them some information in the mail.
Once you’ve gotten your key points across, leave the rest to a medical professional. Make sure your parent has access to a doctor they trust, and then give them the privacy to discuss their sexual health with that person. It’s up to a doctor to determine the tests or screening needed and to give professional advice about protection.
Talking to your parent about sex isn’t necessarily just one conversation; it’s likely a series of them. By checking in with your parent and remaining open to new conversations about sex and dating, you are doing your part to keep them healthy and safe in today’s dating landscape. Just like they did for you. t8n
According to Canadian Public Health Associates, more than half of seniors aged 65 to 74 and more than a quarter of seniors aged 75 to 85 are sexually active. This information is based on a sample of 3,005 Americans between 57 and 85 years old.