Older women often do not receive the same amount of sexual health education as younger women, despite evidence suggesting that many remain sexually active. This results in an increased prevalence of STIs among adults over 60, especially those living in residential care. The source of this disconnect appears to be in the perceptions of sexual health, both by the older women and by healthcare providers. According to recent literature, African American women are at a greater risk of not getting this education based on a sense of mistrust with their primary care providers.
This summer I researched how older African American women perceive sexual health, and how this impacts the information they receive from their PCPs. This research occurred as part of Dr. Nancy Hodgson’s Healthy Patterns Sleep and Memory Study. Part of Dr. Hodgson’s overarching study is related to health education of older adults so in addition to my research project, I worked to update the sexual health portions of this curriculum. For my main research project, I recruited participants by giving 9 sexual health education presentations at community/senior centers throughout the Philadelphia area. After receiving IRB approval of my research study, I then called 17 volunteers and interviewed them to get qualitative and quantitative data on their comfort discussing sexual health with their doctors.
Through this experience, I had the privilege to speak with older women about sensitive topics and connect with people of all races, ages, and sexual orientation. Bringing comfort to uncomfortable conversations is something I will carry forward in my nursing practice.