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Video: At 75, she’s getting breast implants

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    so, this is what they're gonna need: go under the knife to get that perfect swimsuit body but you may be surprised by the latest generation choosing to enhance their body. here's nbc's aditi roy.

    >> are you ready?

    >> i guess.

    >> reporter: sherry cook is getting a breast lift , breast implants , and a moral boost.

    >> i always tell my husband, i think older women all end up looking like oatmeal boxes or match sticks. and i don't want to look like either one of those.

    >> reporter: at 75 years old, sherry wants to stop the progression towards the oatmeal box, so she's spending two hours in the operating room, all to have lighter and perkier breast.

    >> why implants?

    >> because, they're not going to look good without them. that's -- you know, the whole thing about looking as good as you can, as long as you can.

    >> reporter: sherry is not alone. according to the american society of aesthetic plastic surgery last year 85,000 people, 65 or older, went under the knife. doctors say the reasons aren't all that different from those of younger patients.

    >> they'll come in and say, you know, i take off my clothes and, i mean, that's not me. i mean, it's not me anymore. and so can you help me?

    >> dr. michael mccoolly is sherry's plastic surgeon . he said in the last five years more seniors, more thanner before, is coming into his clinic.

    >> now they're moving more towards the body contouring, breast lifts, tum any tucks.

    >> reporter: aly ellin recently reported on seniors and plastic surgery .

    >> all over the country, i found this in california, i found this in florida, i found this in new york.

    >> reporter: do new orleans mno matter w here they are geographically, seniors these day, according to some, are emotionally in a different place.

    >> our seniors are getting divorced, they're dating, they're competing in sports. why not have the plastic surgery to go along with how young they feel inside.

    >> reporter: patients must get medical clearance before surgery. but according to dr. mccooler, that doesn't mean greater health risks. recovery time is the same.

    >> why are you doing an 80 yaerlgd? my response is why not.

    >> my gosh, i'm not a kid. you know, i'm not going to look like i did then. i want to still have a shape.

    >> reporter: sherry embraces her 75 years, but in the sunset of her life she just wants to look as good on the outside as she feels on the inside. for "today," aditi roy, nbc news, los angeles .

    >> dr. michael is a miami-based board certified plastic surgery and lillian is a psychologist on aging and beauty. is this a broad trend or anecdot anecdotal, here and there?

    >> absolutely. because of advances in health care americans are living healthier, longer, more he think lives. they want to look as good as they feel.

    >> when they come into you, what do they say? what's their motivation?

    >> their motivation is that when they look in the mirror, as the doctor said, they don't see the person that they feel they are inside. they feel they're looking older. their bodies are heading south , so to speak, and, you know, they're asking for help.

    >> is it because they want to date and look good or they want to look good at the office and look younger?

    >> there are a variety of reasons that seniors choose to have plastic surgery . and it's very important as a surgeon i delve into those aspects and find out exactly why. they can vary from a widow, a person who is divorced, out there trying to date an attractive spouse or mate, or an aging salesman, senior who wants to compete with younger salesmen and stay in the workforce longer. there are a variety of reasons why people have plastic surgery after the ainlg 65.

    >> flies in the thought of aging gracefully.

    >> this is very important issue. the positive side of this is that people are living longer, they want to live that life passionately, robustly, they want to feel as good as they look. you know, that saying that 60 years is the new 30. i don't know if that is so true, but they do have to ask some important questions. is it in the best interest of this patient? you don't know yet. the jury is out. the data is not in yet for what it really means to somebody in their 70s and 80s to get the surgery. will it actually give them what they're hoping to achieve?

    >> we should point out, we're talking some major surgery here, right?

    >> sure. sure. it's important to remember the difference between chronological age and physiological age. someone in their 70 whoz has lived a healthy life and is still very active can have no greater risk for surgery than someone in their 40s under similar circumstances. on the other hand, someone who has poor health habit, et cetera , might not ever be a candidate for plastic surgery .

    >> is there an ainlg limit in which you say, i'm not doing this procedure for you?

    >> i think you have you to consider, the type of recovery time is longer, how will this impact their life for how long? is the risk worth it? sometimes one surgery results in another -- desire for more surgery. you get your breasts enhanced and then your neck doesn't look so good.

    >> how old is how old?

    >> age is just a number. it depends on the procedure you're going to have. i have operated on 90-year-old people who active and healthy under conscious sedation, doing an eye lift, for example, or a neck lift or facelift. on the other hand, a tummy tuck or breast lift operation is much more invasive and therefore they have to be in better shape for that.

    >> recovery time is a little longer.

    >> a little longer. like i said before, every patient should be considered individually, both psychologically and physiological.

    >> good debate. thank you.

By
TODAY contributor
updated 8/23/2011 8:11:42 AM ET 2011-08-23T12:11:42

A new generation is turning to plastic surgery to mold the perfect bodies they’ve always craved: seniors. Sherri Cook is riding that wave. Today, at 75, she’s getting breast implants and a breast lift so she can keep looking as young as she feels.

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“You know, I always tell my husband that I think older women all end up looking like oatmeal boxes or match sticks,” she told TODAY’s Aditi Roy. “And I don’t want to look like either one of those.”

Sherri’s got plenty of company. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, nearly 85,000 people age 65 and older chose to enhance their appearance by going under the knife in 2010.

Video: At 75, she’s getting breast implants (on this page)

Sherri looked in the mirror one day and decided she’d had enough of sagging breasts. So she’ll spend two hours in the operating room to get back those perky breasts of her youth.

Anticipating the question, she looked at Roy and said “Why the implants? Because, honey, they’re not going to look good without them. Ha! Ha! That’s the whole thing about looking as good as you can as long as you can.”

It’s not surprising that people want to hang on to their looks, said Dr. Michael Niccole, Sherri’s surgeon. Niccole is seeing more and more seniors who want to look the way they used to.

“They’ll come in and say, ‘You know, I take my clothes off and that’s not me,’” he said. “That’s not me anymore.”

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While the focus used to be on face lifts, now people are taking a closer look at their bodies, Niccole said.

“They’re moving on more toward body contouring with breast lifts, tummy tucks,” he explained.

Psychologist Belisa Vranich says we shouldn’t be surprised that seniors are willing to go under the knife to preserve their looks. Things are different these days. Seniors are much more active than they used to be.

“Our seniors are getting divorced,” she said. “They’re dating. They’re competing in sports. Why not plastic surgery to go along with how young they feel inside.”

While some might worry about the risks of surgery in people over 65, Dr. Micael Salzhauer, a plastic surgeon based in Florida says that’s not necessarily an issue.

“I’ts important to remember the difference between chronological age and physiological age,” Salzhauer told TODAY’s Carl Quintanilla. “Someone who’s in  their 70s and lived a healthy life and is still very active can have no greater risk for surgery than someone in their 40s under similar circumstances. On the other hand someone who has poor genetics or poor health habits might not ever be a candidate for plastic surgery.”

Salzhauer has many patients who are over 65. And they have a variety of reasons for choosing to enhance their looks.

“It’s very important that I delve into those aspects and find out exactly why,” he said.

“They can vary from a widow to a person out there who’s divorced and trying to date and attract a spouse or a mate. Or it might be an aging salesman, a senior, who wants to compete with younger salesmen and stay in the work force longer. So there are a variety of reasons a person might have plastic surgery after age 65.”

Psychologist Vivian Diller isn’t ready to bless every case of senior plastic surgery, but she thinks it can be good for some.

“The positive side of this is that people are living longer and they want to live their lives passionately, robustly,” Diller told TODAY’s Quintanilla. “You know that saying ‘50 is the the new 30.’ I don’t know if that’s so true. We do have to ask this important question: Is this in the best interest of this patient? We don’t know yet. The jury is out. The data is not in yet on what it really means to someone in their 70s and 80s. Will it actually give them what they’re hoping to achieve?”

Diller fears that one surgery will lead to a host of others as people take a closer look in the mirror and scrutinize all the ravages of aging on their bodies.

“Sometimes one surgery results in the desire for another surgery,” she told Quintanilla. “You get your breasts enhanced and then your neck doesn’t look good. That’s a question we have to ask when you’re in your 70s and 80s.”

For her part, Sherri doesn’t expect to have the same body she had when she was 16. She just doesn’t want to look like a sack of flour.

“I want to still have a shape,” she said. “I know I’m not going to look like I did ever again. But I don’t want that.”

Linda Carroll is a health and science writer living in New Jersey. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, Health magazine and SmartMoney. She is the co-author of the forthcoming book "The Concussion Crisis: Anatomy of a Silent Epidemic."

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