Safer Sex in Later Life: Qualitative Interviews With Older Australians on Their Understandings and Practices of Safer Sex
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Rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are increasing in older cohorts in Western countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, suggesting a need to examine the safer sex knowledge and practices of older people. This article presents findings from 53 qualitative interviews from the study Sex, Age, and Me: A National Study of Sex and Relationships Among Australians Aged 60+. Participants were recruited through an online national survey. We consider how participants understood â€œsafer sex,â€? the importance of safer sex to them, the safer sex practices they used (and the contexts in which they used them), and the barriers to using safer sex. Older adults had diverse understandings, knowledge, and use of safer sex practices, although participants tended to focus most strongly on condom use. Having safer sex was strongly mediated by relationship context, trust, perceived risk of contracting an STI, concern for personal health, and stigma. Common barriers to safer sex included erectile difficulties, embarrassment, stigma, reduced pleasure, and the lack of a safer sex culture among older people. The data presented have important implications for sexual health policy, practice, and education and health promotion campaigns aimed at improving the sexual health and well-being of older cohorts.
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