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More Senior Citizens Seeking Cosmetic Surgery

Cosmetic procedures are growing in popularity with senior citizens. Medical advances are helping us to live longer, and old people are still concerned about their appearances. If you still feel young and healthy, why shouldn't you look young and healthy?

"People are living longer. In many cases, they're living healthier, and they don't perceive themselves as being old or older," said Lawrence B. Savitsky, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon in St. Petersburg, FL.

Plastic surgery is generally more complicated for older patients because surgery in general is riskier in an old patient and recovery times are longer than for young people. Seniors are more likely to have health considerations that would bear upon the success of a surgical procedure, and many medications that seniors commonly take would be adversely affected by a surgical procedure. Only seven percent of cosmetic surgeries are performed on seniors over the age of 64. Last year, the actual number of U.S. seniors seeking cosmetic surgery was 675,000, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS). This is about six times as many seniors seeking plastic surgery as in 1997.

Many old people have lived healthily for their entire lives, and the baby boomers do like to look good! Seniors seeking cosmetic surgery should find skilled doctors who can modify a procedure to fit the needs of the patient. For example, if the patient has thinning hair, face lift incisions can be carefully positioned so that scars will be hidden. Earlobe shortening can be included in a face lift for patients who dislike the natural earlobe lengthening that happens with age. Another frequently modified procedure performed on senior citizens is eyelid surgery. Skin health determines how much tissue can be removed, and very old patients usually have less skin removed than younger patients.

On the down side, the extra precautions that must be taken with old patients can make cosmetic surgery more expensive. Surgeons are more likely to need extra medical assistance available, and they may prefer to do the operation in a hospital rather than an outpatient surgical center just in case something goes wrong. "In this and all age groups it's imperative that a patient understands that cosmetic surgery is not a quick fix," warned Sheldon J. Sevinor, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon with offices in Boston and Miami. "This is serious surgery. They must understand the potential risks and complications."

Based on these considerations, non-invasive procedures are still the most preferable to seniors. Botox injections and similar non-surgical procedures even remain popular despite the fact that Medicare and other insurance companies typically only cover procedures that are deemed medically necessary, such as breast reconstruction after a mastectomy. In 2008, U.S. seniors had 193,647 Botox procedures and 108,244 hyaluronic acid procedures (such as Juvederm). These numbers overshadow the next most common procedure for Americans 65-and-over: cosmetic eyelid surgery, which was performed 24,836 times in 2008.

Perhaps the best solution would be to change they way people perceive aging, but short of altering a very ingrained prejudice of our culture, cosmetic procedures provide a way for senior citizens to continue feeling attractive. Most seniors who undergo cosmetic surgery are happy with the results.

Post-surgical infection is a common threat, and seniors are more susceptible to it, so if you are considering plastic surgery, make sure you find a meticulous doctor who will take your special needs into consideration and perform the most appropriate procedure for you. Doctors should insist upon taking complete medical histories and doing blood work. They may also require further pre-admission testing, such as electrocardiograms or chest X-rays.

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