Plastic Surgery & Older Americans
Experts say thousands of men and women, aged 65 and older, are getting plastic surgery, the numbers jumping from nearly 121,000 in 1997 to more than 425,000 in 2001, according to surgeons.
Gladie Sargeant had her first cosmetic surgery in 1988. An eye-lift, a face-lift, a nose job, and a chemical peel -- all at once. "I was so excited I couldn't wait to do it", says Gladie, now a resident of Los Angeles, who grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. "As they were wheeling me down to the O.R. I said to myself, 'Boy this is the greatest adventure of my life.'"
The surgery was a birthday gift from her late husband. "It was a kick, really, and it's carried me right through," Sargeant says, adding that she did it to boost her low self-esteem.
Plastic surgery for the senior set -- is it the result of ageism? Activist and former National Organization for Women President Patricia Ireland thinks so. "The notion that age is unattractive has such a hold on all of us that we're willing to cut up our faces, to have the risks of general anesthesia -- for somebody else's idea of what's beautiful is a little frightening," she said.
Plastic surgeon Dr. Sheldon Sevinor specializes in nipping and tucking older adults.
Statistics for the increase come from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), which also says that liposuction is the most common surgery. Face-lifts rank fifth, according to the plastic surgery group.
Boston plastic surgeon Dr. Sheldon Sevinor has been practicing for more than 25 years. He specializes in nipping and tucking those in their sixth decade and beyond. Dr. Sevinor says, "I tell my patients, you don't have to apologize to want to undergo cosmetic surgery, assuming you're healthy, if you in your 60s, 70s, even 80s today."
Dr. Sevinor says although advanced age itself is no reason to avoid having cosmetic surgery, it does pose additional concerns. One concern: skin elasticity. Older patients who undergo liposuction in the abdominal area often require a modified tummy tuck to get rid of excess skin that has lost its elasticity.
ASAPS suggests when it comes to eyelid surgery, tissue removal may need to be more conservative, since older patients have a greater tendency to develop "dry eye." For facial peels, several mild peels may sometimes be preferable to a deep chemical peel, since an older adult's skin is significantly thinner.
Sargeant's recovery took almost three weeks.
As noted on its Web site, ASAPS indicates surgical techniques are sometimes modified for older adults. For example, when a face-lift is performed on someone with thinning hair, the incisions may be placed to better camouflage the scars. Older patients who have a face-lift may choose to have their earlobes reduced at the same time because earlobes grow and stretch with aging, and may look out of proportion after a face-lift.
People age 65 and older may have illnesses or conditions that put them at greater risk from surgery. And, they are more likely to be on medications that might interfere with an operation.
For those reasons, Dr. Sevinor says, he's more compulsive about safeguards with the 65-plus group," ...by getting medical clearance with their own personal physician, getting clearance from the anesthesia department and have it in a safe setting, that is a hospital environment."
Healing can also take longer than with younger patients.
Gladie Sargeant's recovery took almost three weeks. But she says she'd do it all again -- in a heartbeat. "I'd say to everyone -- go for it. Anyone who wants it, you go for it. It's like traveling. You do it as long as you're able."