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Question to Sexpert Timaree:
“So, my grandma died three years ago and while it was really hard on my grandpa, he’s moved on and is planning to start dating again. He’s quite popular with several of the older neighborhood ladies. This is really weird to ask, but do I need to have a talk with him about dating in the modern world? I doubt he’s thought about sexually transmitted diseases for forty years. I read something about HIV spreading at nursing homes and immediately thought of my grandpa. How do I talk about sex to the guy who taught me how to play catch?”
Hold still while I pin this tastefully tacky “World’s Best Grandkid” ribbon on your polo. You’re fucking A right Gramps needs to be prepared to re-enter the dating (and presumably sexing) atmosphere. Now, it would be naïve to assume he didn’t already know the rudiments: sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have existed since the first dirty cave people realized that rubbing up against each other felt awesome. However, there are a number of reasons elderly folks are actually at an increased risk for trouble and he might need to brush up on some of the finer points of avoiding what he probably called “venereal disease.”
For those of us born in the 80s and later, HIV has always been a threat. It has been in the public consciousness for our entire lives and therefore, we’re more likely to use condoms than older age groups. For Gramps, though, condoms were something that sailors needed when they looked for “good time girls” and sex workers, not what you use when you make it with the widow next door.
Further, because decreased vaginal lubrication after menopause, it’s actually easier to get an STI for an elderly person. And they often wait much longer between sexual health exams, meaning something can go undiagnosed for years. And considering your grandparents were married so long, there’s a real possibility he has never had to learn HOW to perform safer sex practices like putting on condoms.
Promiscuity and STI rates among seniors are increasing and there’s no reason to suspect this trend will slow as the self congratulatory Boomers slide into this phase of life. Thanks to Viagra and Cialis and their ilk, Gramps can look forward to years of potential boots-knockin with the little old ladies nearby, but he needs to know what to do to avoid becoming one of the 10% of new HIV cases that are people over 50.
One thing I want to impress upon you is that although your concern and willingness to help mean you can do a great deal to lead Gramps in the right direction, it IS a little awkward for you both to do the actual education. He might learn more if you point him towards the information, rather than instruct him personally. There are sexuality educators available who work with seniors whom he won’t have ever diapered, and they will gladly help answer his questions.
What you can do:
-look into programming at the local senior center or retirement home and ask if they already have sexually education available.
-contact a local sexual health clinic, Planned Parenthood or health department and ask what is available nearby for Gramps
-get pamphlets on sexual health in general, using condoms and talking about safer sex with partners from your doctor, health clinic or Planned Parenthood and give them to Gramps. You can either leave them where he will find them (good plan) or talk to him about how you know he’s about to start dating again and you want him to know about some stuff that has happened since he was last a free agent (better plan). Be prepared to get rebuffed and assure yourself you did the right thing.