At a party one night, I heard a statistic that made me laugh out loud: The STD rate among people over the age of 60 is skyrocketing. But, when I stopped to think about it for a second, it maked total sense. Maybe older people didn't have sexual health education in school like I did. Maybe they were raising families when the AIDS epidemic broke out. Maybe they were no longer in danger of getting pregnant and assumed they didn't need protection. Maybe they decided to experiment with their sexuality once their partner passed, or they got divorced. Once I moved past my initial reaction, and realized it was a result of assumptions and taboos, I decided to do something about it.
I gained a ton of insights by interviewing older people at Age Well Hackney, securing and manning a table at a senior health event, speaking to ministers at the Unitarian Church of Stoke Newington, attending a retirement fair where I spoke to a retiree cruise line director, visiting sexual health clinics, conferring with gerontologists, and testing prototypes of schemes and products with all of these people. It was fascinating.
During my research, it occurred to me that there was no condom packaging out there that would appeal to peple over the age of 25, much less over the age of 60. I learned that we make assumptions about race, sexual orientation, and general sexual health knowledge of older generations. So I set out to create packaging that addressed three areas:
1) Ethnic diversity
2) Sexual diversity
3) Age diversity
A condom distribution scheme for people over the age of 50 (they can get them at the community health center, through friends, and even at church!), along with redesigned condom packaging, which included instructions in larger typeface, was launched at Age Concern Hackney. As a result of this projet, I was asked to work with Common Ground on their Forward Thinking Hackney and FLiP projects. Most recently, I've been asked to collaborate on a book about sexual health for the aging population with Dr. Regina Marranzini, Medical Director of Geriatrics for Memorial Regional Hospital South in Hollywood, Florida.