Should Grandparents Opt for Plastic Surgery?

Procedures Are Increasingly Popular, But the Grandchildren May Not Approve

grandson asks grandmother about her wrinkles
Grandchildren are bound to notice that your skin looks different from theirs. Photo © Oliver Rossi | Getty Images

The number of patients over 65 opting for plastic surgery is rising steadily, according to an article in the New York Times. Like most of my generation, I have considered a little tweak. As a dedicated grandmother, I decided to poll the grandchildren before having any "work" done. But first a little research was in order.

Plastic Surgery Versus Cosmetic Surgery

The first thing I learned was that the most common term for what I was considering, plastic surgery, isn't really accurate.

Cosmetic surgery is a better name for surgery that has no real purpose except improving appearance. Plastic surgery often corrects situations that result from birth defects, accidents, and illnesses that may affect the way the body functions. What I was considering is properly termed cosmetic surgery or aesthetic plastic surgery. 

Popular Procedures for Grandparents

Individuals aged 35-50 account for the majority of cosmetic procedures, according to 2015 statistics compiled by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS). Those in that age bracket have 40% of the procedures, with liposuction, breast augmentation and tummy tucks heading the list, in that order.

Some grandparents fall into the 35-50 age bracket, but most of us are in the 51-64 and 65+ brackets, and the story for those age spans is radically different. For ages 51-64, liposuction still leads but is closely followed by eyelid surgery and facelift.

For ages 65+, eyelid surgery takes the lead, followed by ​a facelift. Liposuction is a distant third.

Eyelid surgery or is somewhat different from the other cosmetic procedures I've mentioned because it can have a functional purpose, too, especially in the 65+ group. Sometimes the eyelid sags so much that it interferes with vision.

When this occurs, insurance may pay for the procedure. This is usually judged to occur when the skin droops so much that it covers the eyelashes.

Trends in Cosmetic Surgery

Eyelid surgery and facelifts have shown staying power but little growth, according to ASAPS records going back to 1997. Other procedures, however, are booming. Breast lifts and breast reductions have both increased in popularity. Fat transfer to the breasts, buttocks, ​and face, which wasn't even tracked in 1997 is quite a popular procedure today, with fat transfer or fat grafting to the face showing up as the ninth most popular surgical procedure for women in 2015.

Another trend is the increasing popularity of nonsurgical procedures, such as injectables, microdermabrasion and chemical peels.

Americans spent over $13.5 billion on cosmetic procedures in 2015, with women accounting for 90% of the procedures.

What Will the Grandchildren Think?

No one worries like grandparents, but we aren't the only ones who worry. Grandchildren may worry if they know that a grandparent is having a cosmetic procedure. They may also be concerned if they see their grandparents during the recovery period, when there may be a lot of discoloration and bruising.

How much they should be told will depend upon their ages and dispositions.

Some grandparents worry that the change in their appearance will be too radical for the grandchildren. Most of the time, that isn't an issue. Most cosmetic procedures do not radically change one's appearance. The goal is to make one look younger and more "rested" while still having a natural appearance. In fact, one survey asked observers to guess the age of subjects before and after facial cosmetic surgery. The observers rated the subjects as around three years younger after their surgery. Other surveys have had somewhat higher results, but a person is not going to go into surgery looking 60 and come out looking 45.

I Check With the Real Experts

After I spent some time in research, I decided to consult my grandchildren ​or at least four of them who happened to be at my house at the time.

Their ages were 7-14. I've never considered plastic surgery for anything below the neck, so I asked them specifically, "Do you think I should get a facelift?" Here are their responses:

  • "Are you thinking about THAT? That's so out of character. No, you shouldn't do it."
  • "I don't think you should do it, because you might have problems."
  • "No, you shouldn't do it, because you're fine just the way you are."
  • "I'm not going to answer that question."

So there you have it: three said no and one abstained. I think I'm going to abstain, too, at least for now. But I'm not going to rule out the possibility of a little nip-and-tuck in my future.