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.”
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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