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Too old for cosmetic surgery? Not in South Florida

When it comes to cosmetic surgery, age has no limits.

South Florida Sun Sentinel front page article on Sunday September 25, 2013:


Cally Politis, 79, of Plantation, had surgery to get rid of her “turkey neck” three months ago. In South Florida, a more unconventional demographic has developed a fondness for the scalpel.

By Nicole Brochu, Sun Sentinel

2:38 p.m. EDT, August 23, 2013

When it comes to cosmetic surgery, age has no limits.

At least not in South Florida, where physically fit seniors in their 70s, 80s and even their 90s are going under the knife in an ageless quest to look as young as they feel.

“You feel like you did 20 years ago, but the mirror shows you differently,” said Sheila Yale, 70, a Fort Lauderdale real estate agent who had her upper and lower eyelids tightened last year and plans a lower facelift within the next six months. “Those damn mirrors.”

It’s a complaint South Florida’s plastic surgeons say they hear all the time among the geriatric set, which they count among some of their most vibrant patients.

“The average 70- or 80-year-old across the country is in a nursing home or homebound. Here, they’re playing tennis, golfing, ballroom dancing,” said Dr. Jorge Perez, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Fort Lauderdale. “When I’m talking to colleagues around the country, they are astonished I do facelifts on 70- and 80-year-olds. This is really unique to South Florida.”

National statistics bear out Perez’s assertion. Seniors 65 and older accounted for just 8 percent of the 10 million surgical and non-surgical cosmetic surgeries performed in 2012 across the country, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

Here, surgeons say patients 70 and older make up 10 to 20 percent of their practices.

Board-certified facial plastic surgeon Dr. Jacob Steiger said he sees one or two so-called super-agers a day in his Boca Raton office seeking cosmetic procedures, whether it’s Botox, fillers, eyelid repair, neck lifts or full facelifts.

For Dr. Shashi Kusuma, the elderly account for 15 percent to 20 percent of his business.

“The 80s are the new 60s,” said Kusuma, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Plantation who performed cosmetic facial surgeries on three patients — two in their 80s, one in her early 90s — in the past few months alone.

The reasons these women, and a few men, seek cosmetic procedures vary. For some, it’s a gift to themselves.

“Call me crazy, but I don’t want to be an advertisement for hanging skin,” said Gisele G. Webber, 90, a Pompano Beach retiree who gets filler injections in her lips and Botox in her forehead on a regular basis.

Others, like Cally Politis, do it for their loved ones. In May, the 79-year-old from Plantation finally succumbed to her husband’s persistent pleas and had Kusuma pare back her “turkey neck,” the first cosmetic procedure of her life.

Three months later, Politis said she’s thrilled with the results and glad she had the surgery. But she admits the recovery was more difficult than she’d anticipated.

Others, though, sail through the operation like people half their age, their surgeons say.

Even doctors outside the plastic surgery field agree that age isn’t a deterrent in performing cosmetic procedures. The operations are safe for patients of any age, as long as the person is physically healthy and doesn’t have serious health issues like diabetes and heart or lung problems.

“It depends on the physiology and health status of the patient undergoing the operation. Age is just a number,” said Dr. Nabil El Sanadi, chief of emergency medicine at Broward Health who sits on the Florida Board of Medicine’s surgical care committee.

Cosmetic surgeons say their typical elderly patients have a youthful spirit and vitality that match their physical health.

“I have patients in their 70s and 80s who are in better shape than some 30-year-olds,” said Dr. Steven Schuster, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Boca Raton. “People are living longer, living healthier lives and taking better care of themselves, and they want to look better.”

But that doesn’t mean cosmetic surgeons don’t treat their elderly patients differently.

When it comes to cosmetic surgery, age has no limits.

At least not in South Florida, where physically fit seniors in their 70s, 80s and even their 90s are going under the knife in an ageless quest to look as young as they feel.

“You feel like you did 20 years ago, but the mirror shows you differently,” said Sheila Yale, 70, a Fort Lauderdale real estate agent who had her upper and lower eyelids tightened last year and plans a lower facelift within the next six months. “Those damn mirrors.”

It’s a complaint South Florida’s plastic surgeons say they hear all the time among the geriatric set, which they count among some of their most vibrant patients.

“The average 70- or 80-year-old across the country is in a nursing home or homebound. Here, they’re playing tennis, golfing, ballroom dancing,” said Dr. Jorge Perez, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Fort Lauderdale. “When I’m talking to colleagues around the country, they are astonished I do facelifts on 70- and 80-year-olds. This is really unique to South Florida.”

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