83-Year-Old Gets Breast Implants to Keep Up With Kids

Americans over 65 want their faces and bodies to match their energy levels.

August 9, 2011, 4:17 PM

Aug. 10, 2011— -- Marie Kolstad, an energetic property manager from Orange County, Calif., needed a lift in her busy life, but kept it secret from her four children, 13 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, fearing they would disapprove.

At the age of 83, after being widowed for more than a decade, Kolstad spent $8,000 on three-hour breast implant surgery on July 22. "I never gave a thought to meeting someone different," she said. "It was more about looking in the mirror and liking who I am."

And she says her doctor has other plastic surgery patients who are even older than she is. "This seemed like a simple way to go and I didn't think it was a big deal," she said.

Kolstad -- a 32A as a young woman -- had blossomed in middle age into a 36C. At her age, she told the New York Times in a report this week, "your breasts go in one direction and your brain goes in another."

"When I examined Marie there was a lot of sagging and almost no volume left over after 83 years," the doctor who performed her surgery, Dr. Michael Niccole, founder of the CosmetiCare Plastic Surgery Center in Newport Beach, Calif., told ABC News.

"It's something you dream about," she told ABCNews.com about breast enhancement. "I just wanted nice ones. I didn't want anything outlandish or out of place. Now, they are firmer and rounder."

Plastic surgery is on the rise among baby boomers, but now doctors are also seeing an uptick among septuagenarians and octogenarians.

Those who are over 65 represent about 7 to 8 percent of all procedures, according to Dr. Norman Rowe, a New York City plastic surgeon.

"People say, just because my life age is 84, doesn't mean I have to be happy or content looking 80," he said.

"The whole population is getting older," said Rowe. "People in their 40s and 50s are now in their 60s and 70s getting things done. Americans are aging and their length of life is increasing."

Americans like Kolstad are more active than any generation before them, and they say they want their bodies to match their energy level.

In 2010, there were 84,685 surgical procedures among those over 65, according to the American Society for the Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Of those, 26,635 were face-lifts; 24,783, cosmetic eyelid operations; 6,469, liposuctions; 5,874, breast reductions; 3,875, forehead lifts; 3,339, breast lifts and 2,414, breast augmentations.

Kolstad, who is on vacation in Hawaii with close friends who are half her age, said her family worried that she would die under the knife.

"Their biggest fear was the anesthesia -- could there be a blood clot or this or that," she said. "They didn't find out until the day before because I knew that there would be an objection and I didn't want to hear about it. I had made my mind up."

"She told me the day of the surgery, they told her, 'Mom, you're doing to die on the table,'" Dr. Niccole told ABC News. "I said, 'You're not going to die on the table.'"

"There are always risks," Dr. Niccole said of arguments against elderly patients seeking elective surgery. "There's risks in babies having surgery. So, who's more fragile?"

Kolstad said her mother had lived until 94. "I am hoping to bypass her," she said.

Rowe said he has operated on plenty of seniors, included a facelift for an 83-year-old.

"She was spry and loved to go salsa dancing and had a boyfriend at the time," he said. "She was a widow and pretty much wanted her face to represent that."

Though most of his older patients seek anti-aging facial work, Rowe does perform breast lift procedures on older women. "They don't want larger breasts, they just don't want them hanging by their knees. We can make them perky, but not like a 20-year-old.

"They look better in a bra and shirt and you don't need a bathing suit with support," he said.

One patient named Carol, a 64-year-old from Brooklyn, N.Y., said Rowe performed a tummy tuck and breast lift that "make me look 40." She, too, was widowed two years ago, but said she did it for herself, not any prospective dates.

"It's something I've always had on my mind, maybe 20 years ago," said Carol, an active retiree who spends summers with her children in Brooklyn and is off to Florida in the winter.

First, she had gastric bands and went from a size 18 to 12. "I still had a fat on my belly," said Carol. "Every time I put on a pair of paints, my belly would show."

Then she opted for a tummy tuck and was able to get into a size 4. In all, she lost 72 pounds. "To me, it was an excellent decision," said Carol.

Plastic Surgery Can't Work Miracles

Plastic surgery can't turn back the clock completely, according to Rowe. "But it makes you look more refreshed. It also helps if someone takes care of themselves."

Sometimes he turns patients away for unrealistic expectations and other times for medical conditions that might put them at risk. Rather than doing facial and body surgery all in one long procedure, he can "stagger" them over time. "I might wait two or three months to do the nose and eyes."

He understands society's current fascination with plastic surgery, which now includes even the oldest Americans.

"Yes, there is an obsession with being young," said Rowe. "You don't need a plastic surgeon to tell you that. Just switch the TV and watch the 'Housewives of Orange County.' Look at the advertisements and sex on TV."

Still, breast enhancement surgery for seniors is not that common, according to Dr. Julius W. Few, a plastic surgeon and director of the Few Institute For Aesthetic Surgery in Chicago.

"Many women who have the financial means or may have saved their entire lives for a procedure," he said. One of his patients, a 71-year-old, had breast enhancement surgery she had always dreamed about after her husband died.

"She was getting ready to do it, her husband took ill," said Few. "She cared for him for the last decade of his life and didn't feel comfortable during his recovery to treat herself. It's an uplifting story and that's a typical scenario."

Most often, they choose "modest enhancement," according to Few. "They are very small implants to the point that no one at their bridge club or bingo club would notice," he said. "They tend to be a very satisfied group with very little risk."

The most important consideration is a patient's psychological and general health, according to plastic surgeons.

Underlying medical conditions that could pose a risk are poorly controlled blood pressure or heart disease, diabetes, obesity or other underlying disease, primarily because of the anesthesia concerns.

Men too are seeking plastic surgery as the media -- and society -- attaches less stigma.

Gilbert Meyer, a Florida widower who is "over 75," spent more than $8,000 on plastic surgery to lift the sagging skin around his neck.

"I looked at myself in the mirror and the jowls were starting to fall a bit," said the former filmmaker and consultant from Boca Raton.

Although his girlfriend is 12 years his junior, Meyer said it was less about sex than self-esteem. "I'm in great shape," he said.

"Money is tight because I am on a fixed budget, but it was worth it," said Meyer, who has a healthy 185 pounds on his 6-foot, 1-inch frame. "Yeah, I'd rather have done that than take a cruise."

Now in his eighth decade, Meyer said he has a full social life, playing golf, dancing and dining with his "significant other."

"At the time she was supportive and it didn't make a major different in my looks," he said. "I personally would notice, but nobody else."

As for Kolstad, she said her late husband, a building contractor, would have been supportive of her choice.

"Any kind of plastic surgery is expensive, but now I am free and don't have as many obligations," she said. "I don't know how long I'll live, but it's something I did in my lifetime that was my choice and I am pleased."

This week Kolstad is on vacation with her "second family," the Sperrys, in Hawaii, and they hope her recent breast surgery will give her the confidence boost she needs to perhaps find love again.

"Marie always looks good and has got on her make-up and has her hair done," said 57-year-old businessman Rand Sperry. "It's hard to believe she is 83. I think she'd jump out of a plane if she thought it was fun."

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