During consultations- facelift or other- with my patients, it’s common for people to make comments such as:
- “I know I shouldn’t be worrying about this at my age.”
- “Am I the oldest person that’s ever asked you about this?”
- “I wish I’d done ____ (surgery), but I’m too old for it now.”
This begs the question, is there really an age limit on elective plastic surgery procedures? In my opinion, no and here’s why.
The statement “age is just a number” really does have some merit. I would rather operate on a fit, active, healthy 75 year-old than a 40 year-old smoker with a host of medical problems. That healthy older person is going to have a lower risk of complications than the younger person for just about any surgical procedure. I may ask for medical clearance from a patient’s primary care doctor just to make sure they’re as healthy as they think they are, but age in and of itself is not a barrier to having a successful procedure.
In terms of the results of surgery that can be achieved in patients of varying ages, we may have to set different expectations in older patients than younger patients. Our skin becomes thinner and loses elasticity as we age and patients with poorer skin quality may experience more relaxation of their skin as they heal. For example, when any patient has a breast lift, a normal part of the healing process is some relaxation of the skin and settling of the breast. An older patient may notice more relaxation of the skin as they heal, but no more so than a young patient who has lost a lot of weight and also has inelastic skin. Counseling patients on the improvements that can be anticipated is part of the job of a plastic surgeon. With proper education and realistic expectations, older patients can be just as happy or even happier with their results than younger people!
Many times when a person expresses these feelings or concerns to me, I get the impression that part of their reservation is guilt for wanting to look better or feel better about the way they look. I wrote about this in my blog on the subject of vanity (click here to read), but I think it’s important to say it again. There is no shame in wanting to be comfortable in your appearance and nearly everyone takes steps each day to look their best whether it’s by the clothes they wear, makeup, hair, diet, exercise, etc. A surgical or non-surgical plastic surgery procedure on a good candidate, regardless of their age, is one more option we have to feel our best. Life’s too short to feel guilt over ice cream, buying a gift for yourself, a little Botox, or whatever makes you happy!