The Oldest Old Project: Saul Friedman
This Week in Elder News: 25 October 2008

Shocking Reasons For a Face Lift

[EDITORIAL NOTE: If you have written any blog posts on political issues this week, be sure to get links to me by the end of today for the Sunday Election Issues post. If you're wondering what I'm talking about, see this post.]

category_bug_ageism.gif A week or two ago, I ran across an odious blog from an organization, The Patients Advantage (sic), that matches up prospective patients with cosmetic surgeons. In a recent post, the following reasons were given for “NEEDing” a face lift:

  • wrinkle treatment
  • aging skin is not always pleasant or attractive
  • embarrassed by the way you look
  • depressed with signs of aging
  • over-the-counter skin improvement products haven’t worked
  • immediate results
  • just want a change

Why are people who seek face lifts “embarrassed” or “depressed” by their appearance? Because we live in a culture that perpetuates negative beliefs about getting old – that elders are universally sick, impotent, senile, useless, isolated, poor and dependant.

These beliefs are manifested every day through elder abuse, age discrimination in the workplace, criminal victimization, less aggressive health care, invisibility (particularly toward elder women) and generally patronizing behavior.

Recently, The New York Times reported that some dermatologists and plastic surgeons maintain differing systems of treatment, favoring cosmetic patients over those with medical needs:

"'Cosmetic patients have a much more private environment than general medical patients because they expect that,' said Dr. Richey, who estimated that he spent about 40 percent of his time treating cosmetic patients. 'We are a little bit more sensitive to their needs.'

"Like airlines that offer first-class and coach sections, dermatology is fast becoming a two-tier business in which higher-paying customers often receive greater pampering. In some dermatologists' offices, freer-spending cosmetic patients are given appointments more quickly than medical patients for whom health insurance pays fixed reimbursement fees.

"In other offices, cosmetic patients spend more time with a doctor. And in still others, doctors employ a special receptionist, called a cosmetic concierge, for their beauty patients."

That means someone who, according to The Patients Advocate, wants a face lift “just for a change” gets preferential treatment over another with, for example, a squamous cell cancer.

The obvious reason, of course, is physician greed. Cosmetic patients pay cash, whatever the doctor can get away with charging. But the underlying reason for all cosmetic surgery is ageism which Dr. Robert N. Butler, who coined the term in 1968, discusses in his recent book, The Longevity Revolution:

“Ageism takes shape in stereotypes and myths, outright disdain and dislike, sarcasm and scorn, subtle avoidance and discriminatory practices in housing, employment, pension arrangements, health care, and other services…”

Let me make my position clear: aside from disfigurement due to accident or disease, all cosmetic surgery is ageist and all who participate in it – physicians and patients – contribute to the common belief that old people are ugly resulting in the prejudice and discrimination Dr. Butler so succinctly describes.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz takes us back a few years in Memories are Made of This.]


Besides that, the money squandered on cosmetic surgery is lumped into the cost of health care to bolster the argument that universal health care is unaffordable.

Oooh. Good point, AQ.

One other nasty effect of our society's love of plastic surgery and perpetual youth is the rush of the medical profession to leave the daily grind of private family practice to embrace the envied bank account of the plastic surgeon.

Who could blame them, really? (I believe TGB has addressed this problem recently in the past).

Add in the fact that big corporate insurance companies have dictated healthcare in our country since the mid 80's and you have the basics of why our system is broken.

Although I agree completely with everything Ronni has written about cosmetic surgery, I'd just like to add that the results are usually extremely unpleasant. The look of shiny, buffed plastic is definitely not my idea of beauty. And "Botoxic"? Let's not go there.

Of course, what goes up must come down, so there's a big aftermarket for re-facelifting, and re-breastlifting, and re- re- re!

To me, it speaks to the spiritual sickness of the modern world, when people can't accept themselves as they are, but have to have some scapel-jockey carve around on them to make themselves feel more acceptable.

I've read several articles where people in their 20's are now getting cosmetic surgery to offset the effects of "aging!"

Think of how much more spiritually and mentally healthy these youth chasers would be if they were to spend their time on learning perspective, self-confidence, and balance in their lives! Think how much more healthy they would be if they spent that money, not on narcissism, but to better the lot of their fellow humans!

The false idea of what is beautiful starts when a little girl is told repeatedly that she looks so pretty or, conversely, don't make an ugly face - it might freeze. The reminder of physical beauty surrounds us with every magazine we pick up, every movie and TV show we see, and every store we visit.

If only Mother Teresa, Golda Meier, Betty Friedan and others of their kind were held up with such a shining example of true beauty.

And if only, the elderly were revered as they used to be in some societies.

oh, i dunno. if people want a face lift, who cares? they removed part of my eye socket once, and they were supposed to patch it up a bit so my face wouldn't sag. they didn't do it, and my face is a bit caved in on one side. but now THAT's balanced by the fact that when i got a cochlear implant, they didn't SEW my ear back in the right place. they GLUED it, and the glue stretched a bit. so now that ear's lower than the other one. i've often longed to have plastic surgery to put everything back in place, but i got sick of surgery.....c'est la vie. people say they don't notice, but i sure notice when i look in the mirror.

I've had friends who've had the works, I see actors, ditto, and the first thought that hits me always is 'where has their soul gone?' because there is something really, really missing. Their histories, their experiences, their journeys.

The false idea of what is beautiful starts when a little girl is told repeatedly that she looks so pretty or, conversely, don't make an ugly face - it might freeze. The reminder of physical beauty surrounds us with every magazine we pick up, every movie and TV show we see, and every store we visit.

If only Mother Teresa, Golda Meier, Betty Friedan and others of their kind were held up with such a shining example of true beauty.

And if only, the elderly were revered as they used to be in some societies.

I think M.E. is pulling our leg. I have a cochlear implant and no surgery is done on the ear.

I like my face as it is and am not going to have surgery or botox, but I think it's up to each individual to decide what makes their life better-- assuming they can afford it. I personally think old faces have a beauty all of their own, but I wouldn't say it's wrong for everyone to have surgery. My concern where it comes to me is I'd lose the character lines and face that has been mine trading it for a plastic imitation.

Personally, from what I have seen, I do not think any plastic surgery makes anyone look younger which is the fallacy of it. I saw an article once where it showed the faces after surgery and you were supposed to guess their actual ages. I was always right. To me it'd not be worth the pain or losing my own face and I have no desire to fake out others for my age. I am kind of proud of my age actually. Like wow, I got here. Who'd have thought.

darlene...i'm not pulling anyone's leg. you're right...they don't operate on the ear per se, but that's not what i was describing. they do have to open up your scalp to install the implant. they made an incision behind my ear and used some kind of glue to te the incision back together. and it stretched. so now my one ear is lower than the other.

You're so right Darlene. We do set the stage very early in life emphazing one's physical beauty.My son-in-law constantly refers to his two-year old daughter as "pretty."
It turns my stomach each time he does that, and he does it often (makes me think he's speaking to a parakeet).

I do not have any loved ones in my life making remarks; I do not want a bit of a nip and tuck in order to have a loved one, either. But have wanted a change from the chicken neck for over 10 years. Perhaps it is sad that society teaches us to regret the loss of youthful looks. But if I were to do this -- and I am about ready to sign the contract -- ought I have to feel guilty about it, too? I was not feeling guilty until I read this column.

What bothers me is the fact normally sane people are comparing their own individual life journey to someone's opinion of how it should look.

Narcissistic or fear? I shudder to think what will happen when the choices become - have the life prolonging surgery with a permanent scar or bypass the longevity to look good in the coffin.

Those for me are not reasonable reasons for a cosmetic surgery, people with no natural deformation should be happy with the way they are, thats my humble opinion.

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