Sex over 50: why it pays to play it safe

Siski Green / 27 January 2016

Safe sex isn’t just for teenagers, using a condom is essential if you’re to protect your health.



Whether you’re newly dating or actively working your way around the singles in your neighbourhood, it’s extremely important to consider the type of contraception you’ll use. While pregnancy might not be at the forefront of your concerns now (although maybe it should be… see below!), there are many other reasons why talking about contraception with a partner is essential, why you should get a regular check-up, and why using a condom is still the best option.

Pregnancy

Just because you’re over 50 and going through menopausal symptoms, doesn’t mean pregnancy is out of the question. Until you have gone a whole year without a single period, pregnancy is still possible, although less likely. As the age that this happens varies widely depending on the woman, it’s important to use contraception to prevent pregnancy unless you’ve gone a full year without a period.

Find out more about women, ageing and sex.

HIV is prevalent in the over 50s

You may not feel comfortable asking a potential sex partner if they’ve been tested for HIV but if you don’t ask, and she or he is HIV positive, then you may well contract the disease.

Think HIV doesn’t happen to people over 50? Think again. Older people are the fastest growing group of HIV patients. The Terrence Higgins Trust estimates that figures for the over-50s will double in the next five years.

You’re at high risk of other STDs

Rates of chlamydia and herpes have soared in the over-50s recently, according to research published in the Student British Medical Journal. Chlamydia diagnosis has been found to increase by 95% in women over 50 between the years 2000 and 2009; and in 2009, more men over 45 had herpes than men aged between 16 and 19.

People over-50 and STD clinics

Ask a young person who has had several sex partners and chances are they will have seen their GP for contraceptive device and/or visited an STD clinic for a check-up. 

Ask the same of someone over 50, especially someone who’s been in a long-term relationship, and it’s likely they’ve never stepped foot inside an STD clinic. 

That puts you at greater risk of an STD if you sleep with someone else who’s over 50 – because they probably don’t know whether they have an STD or not. Many STDs, like chlamyida or genital warts, may not be obvious to the carrier and so they can go about their daily life not worrying or noticing that they are carrying the disease.

Why you need to use a barrier method of contraception

The only way to protect yourself against HIV and other STIs is through some form of barrier, a physical barrier that stops your genital liquids from mixing with your partner’s. Wearing a condom is the best way to protect yourself against this disease. 

You can also use a female condom (this goes inside the woman rather than on the man’s penis) and use gloves for finger-based stimulation. It’s also important to wash carefully after sex so that any fluids that may still be on your skin might be washed away. 

There are, however, some STDs that can still be transmitted despite a barrier form of contraception – these include syphillis, herpes and HPV (human palillomavirus). Which is why asking your partner to get a check-up is the best and safest course of action.

Read our guide to sex over 60 – what no one will tell you.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.