Golden confidence: Navigating cosmetic procedures in your retirement years
As you enjoy your well-deserved golden years, you may find yourself contemplating the fine lines, wrinkles and other signs of aging that you see when you look in the mirror. Maybe the reflection looking back at you doesn't match your vibrant mental picture of yourself.
The desire to look as sprightly on the outside as you feel on the inside is understandable. Plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures offer a way to attain this goal.
We spoke to Kristy Hamilton, MD, FACS, and Katerina Gallus, MD, FACS, both members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, to explore the considerations and benefits of pursuing plastic surgery in your golden years.
Hamilton emphasized there's no age limit on looking your best.
"People want to feel good in their skin at all ages, and that sentiment doesn't suddenly change just because they pass a certain age milestone," said Hamilton. "They want to feel and look like the best version of themselves at every point in their life."
More people than ever are living long, healthy lives. This means plenty of baby boomers are getting plastic surgery in their 60s and 70s.
The pursuit of youthfulness
One trend that Hamilton has noticed among her patients is that many feel vigorous mentally in their chosen activities and interests. Their internal vigor, however, may not always be matched by their outward appearance, prompting some to pursue plastic surgery as a means of aligning their internal and external selves.
Hamilton said another incentive for her older patients who are pursuing aesthetic surgery is to be treated like the youthful, energetic, healthy person they are.
"They don't want to be treated like someone who needs extra assistance," said Hamilton.
Hamilton said for men this often means seeking facelifts to demonstrate a sense of outward vitality and health. Women, similarly, want their outer appearance to reflect their inner spirit, according to Hamilton.
The many options available
So, what are the options if you're in your golden years and want to surgically reverse the signs of aging?
- A facelift can help to tighten and lift sagging skin.
- An upper blepharoplasty (eye lift) can address drooping eyelids.
- A lower blepharoplasty (eye lift) reduces bags under the eyes.
- A brow lift can raise a sagging brow line.
- A neck lift can remove excess skin and fat to improve the appearance below your chin.
- Fat grafting to the hands can help them appear plumper and more youthful.
The importance of staying safe
Gallus cautions that health and safety should always be the top priority when considering surgery, especially for older patients.
"I think if you're healthy and motivated then I don't think there's an age limit to having surgery as long as it's safe, medically speaking," said Gallus.
This involves being at a healthy weight, not smoking and having any existing medical conditions under control.
"If you have a history of high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes, those medical conditions need to be optimized," said Gallus.
Hamilton echoes the sentiment, noting that older patients may have acquired a few medical conditions during their lifetime that need to be addressed before surgery. Both doctors also said a patient needs to be at a stable weight before surgery as patients who are actively losing weight are not at their nutritional best and this could negatively impact recovery and scar healing.
Making a surgical plan
Gallus emphasizes the importance of adjusting the surgical plan to the individual patient and their specific goals because patients in their retirement years have the benefit of knowing their priorities.
"My patients who are older and are seeking cosmetic surgery for the first time are definitely aware of what they want and have an informed opinion of their needs," said Gallus. "It's important to tailor the surgical plan to the patient and what their goals are."
Hamilton agrees, noting that she always asks her patients what their top priority is and what bothers them the most.
"Usually that will steer towards face versus body, but sometimes patients will pursue both," said Hamilton.
Some patients want to have work done on their breasts, abdomen or even liposuction to contour their body to get rid of pockets of fat that resist diet and exercise.
There are a number of nonsurgical or minimally invasive options available if an older patient is not eligible for surgery because of health concerns.
"Particularly if somebody does have a health issue that's going to preclude them from doing a major operation, then we can still do things to enhance confidence and bring out their beautiful features," said Hamilton.
These options may include lasers to reduce the appearance of age spots and fine lines and to stimulate collagen and elastin formation, neuromodulator injections like Botox to smooth wrinkles or facial sculpting with injectable fillers to restore fat under the eyes and in the cheeks and lips.
The desire to feel and look good doesn't diminish with age. There are certainly considerations to be taken into account when it comes to surgery such as safety, but chances are, if you're healthy, you can pursue plastic surgery for quite some time.
There are a variety of options available if you want to enhance your appearance in your golden years, both surgical and nonsurgical.
Ultimately, the key is to work with a board-certified plastic surgeon who will tailor the approach to your individual desires and ensure that you feel as vital and confident on the outside as you do on the inside.
To find a qualified plastic surgeon for any cosmetic or reconstructive procedure, consult a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. All ASPS members are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, have completed an accredited plastic surgery training program, practice in accredited facilities and follow strict standards of safety and ethics. Find an ASPS member in your area.