Positive Aging: Vanity Part 1

Marilyn Murray Willison on

There are plenty of cynical and clueless amateur social theorists who believe that after a certain age seniors no longer pay attention to or are invested in their appearance. According to these out-of-touch observers (maybe they're millennials), the middle-aged and elderly actively avoid gazing in mirrors. Instead, they prefer to focus their time and energy on larger social and political issues like pollution, debt, terrorism, and racial strife. But all you have to do is investigate the current statistics, which show a dramatic increase in cosmetic surgery for those of us in our golden years, to quickly understand that vanity will always be with us, no matter how old we are.

Did you know that the number of plastic surgery procedures has consistently grown for septuagenarian, octogenarian and even nonagenarian patients? According to many doctors, this "down-aging" trend is currently in full swing and sure to grow as more and more baby boomers turn 65.

One of the things that motivates them to undergo cosmetic surgery is the desire to look as young as they feel . While cosmetic procedures used to be considered "too risky" for seniors, plastic surgeons' rosters of elderly patients have increased dramatically.

There's no doubt that older Americans in particular have become more and more anxious to look their best. Additionally, this is a growing demographic of people that have the financial resources to fix things they don't like. New York Times writer Abby Ellin explored the trend of vanity and senior cosmetic procedures in a 2011 article aptly titled "The Golden Years, Polished With Surgery." One of her discoveries was that the nip-and-tuck movement among the elderly is definitely not gender-specific. Dr. Jacob Steiger, a Boca Raton, Florida, facial plastic surgeon, performed an eyelift and neck lift on Gilbert Meyer, a retired film producer, who only revealed his age as "over 75." When asked why he was undergoing the procedure, he responded: "I was looking at myself in the mirror and didn't like what I was starting to see and did something about it. Why not look as good as you can when you can?"

In 2014, the cosmetic surgery industry was worth $11 billion, which is a clear indication of how reluctant we all are to show our age. And in South Florida, where I have lived for the past 25 years, plastic surgeons report that procedures performed on "post-retirement patients" account for about 20% of their total workload. According to a variety of experienced plastic surgeons, it's important for older patients to take into account their preexisting medical conditions and prescribed medications when considering a cosmetic procedure. And perhaps the biggest caveat of all is the need for them to remember that the older they are, the longer the healing process will be.

Not surprisingly, I know personally a number of men and women in their 70s and 80s who have enthusiastically embraced the benefits of cosmetic surgery. On my street alone, one male neighbor had his upper and lower eyelids "fixed" at 83, and a 76-year-old former New Yorker, who used to work in the fashion industry, recently underwent her second full facelift. She had gotten her first one 20 years earlier and had recently noticed "a lot of sagging skin," so she decided to do something about it. They are both delighted with their "new and improved" faces.


I have been hearing cosmetic-procedure confessions from seniors on a regular and almost predictable basis. The fact that these retirees are willing to endure discomfort and possible complications and happily bid adieu to a chunk of cash has convinced me that, where I live at least, cosmetic surgery for seniors is considered well worth it.

Whatever their age, my wish for them is that they find and use whatever it takes -- mentally, physically or surgically -- to look and feel forever young.


Marilyn Murray Willison has had a varied career as a six-time nonfiction author, columnist, motivational speaker and journalist in both the U.K. and the U.S. She is the author of The Self-Empowered Woman blog and the award-winning memoir "One Woman, Four Decades, Eight Wishes." She can be reached at To find out more about Marilyn and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

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