Last month, Marie Kolstad went under the knife for the first time -- at age 83. And she claims the surgeon who performed the breast augmentation surgery has patients older than she is.
Kolstad, who has 12 children and 13 great grandchildren, is a full-time property manager from Orange County, Calif. While her appearance is not the first priority in her life, she saw an opportunity for improvement, and went for it.
"Physically, I'm in good health, and I just feel like, why not take advantage of it?" Mrs. Kolstad told The New York Times. "My mother lived a long time, and I'm just taking it for granted that that will happen to me. And I want my children to be proud of what I look like."
Like many other people her age, Mrs. Kolstad - who has been a widow for ten years -- wanted to close the gap between how she felt and how she looked. "I never gave a thought to meeting someone different," she told ABC News. "It was more about looking in the mirror and liking who I am."
At 83, she said, "your breasts go in one direction and your brain goes in another." And although she also said she wanted her children to be proud of her appearance, she did not immediately let them know about her plans for cosmetic surgery, fearing they might disapprove.
"I just wanted nice ones. I didn't want anything outlandish or out of place. Now, they are firmer and rounder," Kolstad said of her new breasts.
Gilbert Meyer, a retired 75-plus producer, spent $8,000 (the same amount Mrs. Kolstad paid to her surgeon) on a face and neck lift in Boca Raton, Fla.
"I was looking at myself in the mirror and didn't like what I was starting to see and did something about it," Mr. Meyer told the New York Times. "Why not look as good as you can when you can?"
According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, in 2010 there were 84,685 surgical procedures among patients age 65 and older. There are a number of reasons why someone in their twilight years might choose to go under the knife: Some are looking for a late-life partner and want to be at their best; others are still in the job market and want to appear more youthful. While others, like Mrs. Kolstad and Mr. Meyer, want their external appearance to better mirror their health and vitality, which they expect to continue for many years in the future.
Dr. Norman Rowe, a New York City plastic surgeon, said the over-65 set represents about 7 to 8 percent of all procedures.
"People say, just because my life age is 84, doesn't mean I have to be happy or content looking 80," he told ABC News.
"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."
Some have raised concerns that older patients might be at increased risk for life-threatening complications, and there is a relative dearth of research that focuses on cosmetic surgery and older patients. One study at the Cleveland Clinic found no significant difference in the instances of minor or major complications due to surgeries between one group with an average age 57.6. and another with an average age of 70.
"Is there a theoretical age upon which complications do become more likely?" Dr. James E. Zins, the senior author of the study, told the New York Times. "Does that mean that patients 70 and 75 years and over can safely undergo a face-lift with the same complication rate as young patients? We didn't have enough numbers to answer that question."
Whatever the risks may or may not be, some older patients simply trust in their own good health.
Mary Graham, a 77-year-old restaurant owner in Thomasville, Ga., had a facelift and breast implants earlier this year. "I work seven days a week," she told the New York Times. "I wanted to look as young as I feel."
"The only time I go to the doctor is for plastic surgery," she said.