04/04/2013 03:52 pm ET Updated Jun 04, 2013

Why You Should Have the 'Sex Talk' With Your Parents

Having "the sex talk" with your parents is admittedly a tricky proposition. My last HuffPost blog about this topic set off a stream of comments, some asserting that I was being condescending. In my 20 years of working as an advocate for caregivers, baby boomers and mature adults, I've never seen such a strong reaction to a topic. (Please feel free to post your opinions in the comment section of this blog or on my Twitter account @alexisabramson using the hashtag #TheSexTalk.)

"They're old, not stupid" wrote one HuffPost50 reader.

Rest assured, I would certainly never advise anyone to talk down to his or her parents. Why I chose to address the issue is simple: Sex is different today than it was in the past and it will continue to change with the times.

Just as an example, the New York Times recently reported that more baby boomers are contracting sexually transmitted diseases than ever before, citing both the "Graying of America" demographically as well as basic physiological and psychological changes that occur as we get older.

By no means did I intend to be patronizing by offering these important tips. The goal was to make sure that mature adults who are re-entering the dating scene -- especially if it's been a long time -- understand that the so-called "scene" has dramatically changed over the last decade.

In the case of The Sex Talk, clearly, "approach and tone" are everything. It's one thing to say, "Mom, I heard you're dating again. Be careful out there -- I don't want to see you get hurt," versus "Mom, you really should be carrying protection around with you." Having the sex talk requires respect and tact ,regardless of age.

"Lay off and let adults be adults, trust me, even at age 80, they can handle their business without the interference of a nosy daughter or son," wrote another HuffPost reader who commented on my blog. We can ALL use some sound advice. The advice you've given me is: Be really careful when writing about older people and sex -- it's a touchy subject, to say the least (pun intended)! I agree that one should never speak to someone with more life experience without recognizing and appreciating their wisdom. As a passionate advocate in the field of gerontology, this has always been my mantra. But our culture and the subject of dating and sexuality, in general, has definitely changed over the last decade due to advances in technology (online dating, for instance) and the vast increases in longevity, widowhood and divorce. For example:
  • In most cases, women are now freer to be assertive, which challenges traditional etiquette
  • New online dating sites geared toward baby boomers and beyond have created more dating opportunities with different types of people
  • More women are financially independent, which may change what they are looking for in a partner
Many mature adults, especially those 65+ who are recently widowed or divorced, often reach out and tell me it's been a long time since they've been back in the dating scene and a frank conversation is just what they're looking for from anyone who is willing to broach the subject. I believe it's about time we set aside the notion that you can't give advice (sexual or non) to anyone who is older. There are all theses "taboo" or "white elephant in the room" subjects when it comes to talking with our mature parents -- enough already -- let's open up the lines of communication. It goes both ways! I also want to make sure we don't forget a central point in this dialogue. Sex is about joy! In many cases those 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 years old and beyond now have a second chance that many of their parents did not have -- they can reinvent themselves as a single person (and for you readers who said I looked "too young" to address this subject, I'm 45, but I greatly appreciate your comments!). Another HuffPost reader commented: "This advice is as good for young as old now days. There are older people who've lost a partner who never took a chance on having sex 'their way' and they now want to try something different than what they had. I live in a retirement community and hear this a lot." In essence, we can all begin to rediscover ourselves as sexual beings. The thought of our parents having sex clearly (according to the blog feedback) seems disturbing to many, but it's happening -- and that's a good thing -- so we need to make sure that our parents and grandparents understand some of the ramifications of the "new" dating scene to ensure they practice safe sex and are careful about their choices. Let's have an open discussion about it -- with lots of respect from all sides.