Sexual Health Q&A

What are some social sexual health concerns for people as they get older?

In addition to physical concerns, some older people are anxious about some of the social aspects of sexuality, especially if they are starting new sexual relationships after a divorce or a partner’s death.

Safe sex and sexually-transmitted infections (STIs)

Safe sex is just as important for older adults as it is for younger ones. However, older adults may not be as savvy about modern-day safe sex practices as their younger counterparts. Some feel that if a woman is past menopause, no protection is necessary since she cannot become pregnant. And some are not as aware of modern-day STIs, which may not have been as prominent when they were starting their first sexual relationships years ago.

Older people may also be more susceptible to STIs because of weakened immune systems or, in the case of women, thinner vaginal tissues that can tear.

Availability of Partners

For those without a partner, starting new relationships can be daunting, especially if one is dating again after ending a long marriage or grieving the death of a spouse. Staying active in one’s social circle, participating in group activities, or trying a new hobby or class are all ways to find a new partner. Internet dating websites are another option.

For some, loneliness, depression, and negative body image can become obstacles to meeting new partners. Counseling may help.


Many older people have not actively dated for many years and it’s not unusual to feel anxiety over modern social conventions. For example, partners may feel awkward discussing sexual histories or testing for STIs. They may disagree about condom use and fear rejection or conflict. Cultural traditions and norms may prevent certain discussions from taking place.