Trojan needs to partner with Foxwoods to pass out rubbers during midafternoon hours.
Yesterday, The New York Times ran a piece about the blithe, careless sexual habits adapted by a certain age cohort and all of its dire consequences, but it wasn’t yet another exposé on the college “hook up culture.” This warning about changing sexual mores focused, not on the generation of Lena Dunham, but the one of Lena Horne.
“Numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show rapid increases in STD’s among older people,” writes oncologist Ezekiel J. Emanuel (whose name even sounds like it belongs to a New York Times-quoted expert on old people). “Between 2007 and 2011, chlamydia infections among Americans 65 and over increased by 31 percent, and syphilis by 52 percent. Those numbers are similar to STD trends in the 20- to 24-year-old age group.”
Emanuel attributes the rise in geriatric STDs to the post-Viagra boost in the sexual health of the elderly and the dorm-like atmosphere of retirement homes. “They cram a lot of similarly aged people together, and when they do, things naturally happen,” he writes. (Has the word “naturally” ever sounded so icky?) He quotes a friend who said that “[w]hen her father moved into an assisted-living facility, … three women came by to introduce themselves within 30 minutes. And it wasn’t to compare Medicare pharmacy plans and premiums.” Bridge is apparently the new foreplay.
However, these folks came of age in the pre-AIDS, pre-sex-ed era and never got the memo about the importance of condoms and STD screenings, and that’s why there are more cases of the clap at your local bingo hall than there were on Led Zeppelin’s tour bus circa 1973.
Emanuel concludes, “We also need a big public health campaign on safe sex aimed not just at college students but at older people who are living independently.” I am in total agreement with this, because, as much as I care deeply about them and their health, there is no way I am having a safe sex conversation with my own grandparents (or even my parents). That one time I brought a girlfriend on a weekend visit to their Arizona post-retirement retreat and endured an awkward five-minute conversation on what the sleeping arrangements would be and why was traumatic enough.
We need a mass media push. Get the people who do the ads for diabetes testing supplies on the case and have them produce something where Wilfred Brimley unrolls a condom onto a banana. Rewrite the Peggy Lee hit “Fever” to be about Herpes. Trojan needs to partner with Foxwoods to pass out rubbers during the casino’s midafternoon hours. Planned Parenthood should station an outreach coordinator in every Cracker Barrel in Florida, because there is no way I am passing any of my millennial safer sex habits up the generational ladder. If my grandpa ever tells me it burns when he pees, I will just assume that is a side effect of prune juice and nipple-high pants, but in my heart of hearts, I will know the truth.
Image via Sony Pictures.