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Older patients are boosting their lives with cosmetic surgery

Article-Older patients are boosting their lives with cosmetic surgery

Key iconKey Points

  • It is a common mindset that the elderly patient is too old for elective surgery, according to one surgeon.
  • What is a factor is not a patient's age, but a patient's health.
  • If a patient is healthy with no contraindications, there's no reason to deny that patient a procedure he or she seeks, says one surgeon.

As the population ages, logically so does a large share of the potential patient base of the cosmetic surgeon. The Census Bureau states that the U.S. population aged 65 and over is expected to double in size within the next two decades. By 2030, almost one out of every five Americans will be 65 years or older, and the age group 85 and older is now the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population.

Dr. Becker
ELDER INTEREST A May 30, 2006, article on, stated: "Statistics show that there is a 40 percent increase in the number of men and women in their 60s having cosmetic surgery.... The most sought after cosmetic surgery is eyelid reductions, which account for 38 percent of operations, followed by facelifts which make up 28 percent, breast reduction (8 percent) and tummy tucks and liposuction, which make up 6 percent and 5 percent, respectively." Given this trend, in what ways should a surgeon's approach to cosmetic surgery be tailored to geriatric patients?

(BEFORE and AFTER) 60-year-old patient before and 4 months following SMAS facelift and transconjunctival blepharoplasty. (PHOTO CREDIT: FERDINAND BECKER, M.D.)
For all physicians — especially those with practices in areas where there is a high concentration of older people — tailoring their practices to meet the need is simply common sense. This has been the experience of Ferdinand Becker, M.D., a Vero Beach, Fla., facial plastic surgeon and assistant clinical professor at University of Florida College of Medicine. Partly due to his location in the Sun Belt, Dr. Becker's practice is composed of relatively more older patients than the typical surgeon in larger urban areas he believes, so he has a lot of hands-on experience treating the older patient. In a study he and colleagues published in 1999 in Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery, he "showed that major nasal reconstruction wasn't a problem in elderly patients." It seemed a logical next step to examine cosmetic procedures in older patients. "I had a lot of ladies in their 70s coming in saying they were too old to have a facelift. I told them, that's no so — I have done lots of facelifts on patients in their 70s." Dr. Becker says that this is a common mindset — that the elderly patient is too old for elective surgery, "And I set out to disprove that, which I successfully did." Dr. Becker and colleagues conducted a study on facelifts in the elderly, and published their findings. In a nutshell, they reported, elderly patients who were in good health weren't any more likely to experience complications than younger patients.

HEALTHY GROWTH What is a factor is not a patient's age, Dr. Becker contends, but rather "the patient's health. We've turned down people in their 50s or younger who drink or smoke too much." In Dr. Becker's practice, most of his older patients are seeking facelifts — and while the younger generation may be more computer-savvy, the older patients have still done their research, he finds. "The elderly people I see are generally fairly knowledgeable" about what procedures are available.

And if the patient is healthy with no contraindications, Dr. Becker says there's no reason to deny that patient a procedure he or she seeks. What has been his oldest patient? "I did a facelift on a lady who was just three or four months shy of 90. She did fine. She played golf about three days a week, too." Dr. Becker has a healthy view of the aging population, and its implications on cosmetic surgery practices. "I call it a growth industry."


Becker FF, Castellano RD. Safety of face-lifts in the older patient. Arch Facial Plast Surg. 2004;6:311-314.

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