Oct 23

Reinventing: Aging with Today’s Boomers

Almost 3.5 million Americans age 55 and older received cosmetic surgery in 2011, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

The 55-plus age group accounted for slightly more than a quarter of all cosmetic surgery performed in the
United States, according to the 2011 statistics, which were the most recent available. And the Mountain-Pacific Region, including Montana, had the most overall cosmetic procedures, the ASPS reported.

Plenty of factors help explain why Baby Boomers are paying plastic surgeons to improve their looks, but one stands out: Boomers are reinventing aging.

“People feel so good now,” said Dr. Emilia Ploplys, a board-certified plastic surgeon at Benefis Health System in Great Falls. “They look in the mirror and think, ‘That’s not me.’ “

“You don’t have to live with it,” Ploplys said. “You can change it.”

Cosmetic surgery can be lifechanging for some people, she said.

“It can improve self-esteem,” Ploplys said. “It’s not going to make you happy, but it’s going to aid in happiness.”

Baby Boomers are working, playing and dating long past the ages when their parents and grandparents slowed down, and they want their physical appearances to match their attitudes.

But despite their generally independent outlook, Baby Boomers are not immune to the emphasis society places on looks.

“There is a lot of ageism in our society,” Ploplys said. “It would be great if we all were able to let that go and feel good about ourselves no matter what. But the face the world sees (affects) how people treat you.”

It makes sense, then, that facial procedures were the most common cosmetic surgeries performed on people age 55 and older in 2011, according to the ASPS.

At the top of the list of surgically invasive procedures were 94,869 eyelid surgeries, the ASPS reported. Facelifts were second, with 77,630 reported. Rounding out the top five were 28,634 dermabrasions, which reduce wrinkles or facial scarring; 26,707 forehead lifts; and 24,136 rhinoplasties, or nose jobs.

Facial work also topped the list of minimally invasive procedures tracked by the ASPS among those 55 and older. Botox injections were No. 1, with almost 1.3 million conducted in 2011. Soft tissue fillers, chemical peels, microdermabrasion and laser skin resurfacing added up to another 1.6 million procedures.

Facial rejuvenation is one of the most sought-after procedures at Billings Plastic Surgery, said Dr.
Alan Muskett, a board-certified plastic surgeon.

“The Baby Boomers were sun bunnies,” Muskett said. “And they see themselves as immortal, including myself.”

Muskett uses a Fractional CO2 laser to attack sun or acne-damaged skin. The FDA-approved surgical grade laser essentially resurfaces a patient’s skin.

“You can have a 50 percent reduction in wrinkles,” he said. “It can be really dramatic.”

Other popular procedures at Muskett’s office include those that tighten the skin on a patient’s eyelids or neck.

“Sagging necks bother people more than anything,” Muskett said. “They drive people crazy.

A grandchild reaches up and grabs a neck, and they come in and see us.”

Baby Boomers also are turning to plastic surgeons in record numbers for reconstructive surgery after breast or skin cancer.

Congress has mandated that health insurance companies cover the cost of reconstructive breast surgery after mastectomies. Although not all women want breast reconstruction, it is very important to some, Muskett said.

“Even if you had a mastectomy years ago, you can still get reconstructive surgery,” he said. “Some people don’t care at all, but some don’t feel like it’s over until they’re reconstructed.”

Reconstruction after skin cancer is especially common in Montana, where our short summers and high elevation put us at great risk for developing skin cancer. Montanans tend to soak up the sun whenever
they can.

“The sun is so strong here, and we don’t have it for very many months of the year,” Ploplys said.

Ploplys works to repair noses, ears, lips and hands after skin cancer. Repairing faces after cancerous growths have been removed isn’t always easy, she said.

To that end, Ploplys has a bit of advice for everyone, including Baby Boomers.

“It’s never too late to use sunscreen,” she said.

by Diane Cochran
Diane Cochran is a Missoula-based writer who contributes to Montana 55 and other statewide publications.

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