With, oh, maybe a little touch-up around the edges, you can be the 30-year-old you still think you are. (Well, almost.) Here's what it'll cost.
(MONEY Magazine) – AH, VANITY, THY NAME IS...BOOMER?
Admit it. You caught a sideways glimpse of yourself in a mirror the other day, and all the curves seemed to be going in the wrong direction. Or you got together with friends for lunch and had to borrow a pal's reading glasses to make out the menu because you'd left yours at home. How did the chassis fall apart so quickly? You've got crow's-feet, love handles and a sore knee from all the running you do to keep that gut and your blood pressure in check. Man, aging is just one sucker punch after another.
Being a boomer, of course, you are not going to go gentle into that good night. You will age, but on your own terms. And if that means getting some bodywork done—or investing in replacement parts—then so be it. Some 800 boomers were polled recently by the American Association of Retired Persons. Virtually all of them said that they intended to undertake substantial life changes in the next year. Topping the list: taking better care of themselves.
You've certainly got more options to combat aging than you had just five or 10 years ago. Some of what's sold, for sure, is hype. (Spending hundreds a month on supplements? Buy an index fund instead.) But real advances in medicine and technology can make you look and feel 10 years younger. A $15,000 face-lift might not fit your budget (or your sense of aesthetics), but now you can easily take a few years off your appearance with topical drugs or mini-surgical procedures.
And you don't have to give up your favorite sports because of worn-out joints. A little microsurgery on that bum shoulder could get you back on the tennis court in short order. New fitness programs can help you reduce wear and tear on vulnerable body parts while enhancing strength, mobility and balance—the keys to health into your eighties and even your nineties. True, you can't stay young forever, but as you'll see on the following pages, you don't have to be old before your time either.
How to feel younger
They can rebuild you. And you can make yourself less brittle.
$3,000 PER EAR
IS VANITY COSTING YOU YOUR HEARING? A 2006 AARP poll found that half of boomers surveyed complain of some degree of hearing loss, but only one in four have seen a doctor about it.
You don't have to don Grandma's clunky tan hearing aid, though. Tucked into the ear canal, hearing aids today are undetectable and adjust automatically to pick up soft sounds and squelch loud ones.
DOWNSIDE: Digital aids cost $3,000 per ear, typically not covered by insurance. They last five years.
• Knees and Shoulders
$2,000 AND UP
EARLY-STAGE JOINT PROBLEMS can be treated for minimal cost with anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, steroid injections and supplements such as glucosamine. For serious problems, doctors increasingly use arthroscopy to look inside the joint with a tiny camera and make repairs that once required major surgery.
Arthroscopy to treat knees and shoulders (including common rotator cuff injuries) damaged by physical activity is common. New, smaller devices now allow arthroscopy of wrists, elbows and ankles.
COST: $2,000 to $5,000, depending on the difficulty of the surgery
DOWNSIDE: There's debate over the efficacy of arthroscopy for some injuries. And a controversial New England Journal of Medicine article found that it was ineffective in treating arthritis of the knee.
FOR MORE: To bone up on your bones and joints, see orthoinfo.aaos.org.
$23,000 TO $43,000
EXCESS POUNDS PUT PRESSURE ON KNEES and hips. But fitness freaks are more likely to incur the kinds of injuries that lead to joint problems down the road. Doctors are replacing more than 200,000 hips a year now, and the number will nearly triple by 2030. The surgeon swaps a metal ball for the top of the femur (the bone in the upper leg) and removes portions of the damaged socket. Full recovery, including physical therapy to restore mobility and balance, takes three to six months.
COST: $20,000 to $40,000 for surgery; $3,000 for therapy
WHAT'S NEW: A less drastic procedure called resurfacing, for those with limited damage. Doctors reshape and cap the head of the femur with a prosthetic instead of removing it. The procedure is being tested at several U.S. hospitals. "Resurfacing seems to offer more hip stability and less risk of dislocation," says Dr. Michael J. Grecula, an orthopedic surgeon in Galveston. "My patients say they feel better—more normal—after the surgery."
Advances in design and materials may make running and racquetball possible after a hip is fixed.
$1,500 PER EYE
READING GLASSES ARE OUT. What's in: a surgical procedure called conductive keratoplasty, or CK, to treat presbyopia, the all-but-inevitable age-related condition that makes it difficult to read fine print. The operation takes minutes and requires an eyedropper of local anesthetic. So far 100,000 have had it.
COST: $1,500 an eye
DOWNSIDE: Your eyes keep aging. The surgery's benefit will disappear within five to 10 years, and the procedure isn't typically covered by insurance. Maybe reading glasses aren't so bad after all.
• The Back
$700 AND UP
AFTER THE COMMON COLD, back pain is boomers' most common health complaint. Stress, heavy lifting and sudden twists can trigger spasms that result in inflammation of the back muscles, tendons and ligaments. Most M.D.s prescribe rest and painkillers for neck and back pain, but chiropractic, the manipulation of the spine once derided as the profession of quacks, is gaining in popularity.
COST: $130 to $150 for initial visit and diagnosis; $50 to $70 for follow-up visits (usually four to six are needed). Most insurance plans cover chiropractic.
WHAT'S NEW: "Integrative chiropractic" combines spinal manipulation with massage, acupuncture, herbology and other holistic therapies.
DOWNSIDE: Some practitioners really are quacks.
• General Fitness
$2 TO $3,500
JOINTS STIFFEN WITH AGE, and muscles lose strength and elasticity. Musculoskeletal ailments are now the top reason for seeking medical care in the U.S. Sports-related injuries are sending boomers to the emergency room in record numbers. Face it: You are not 25 anymore.
"Boomers need to know that there's a new fitness paradigm," says Marjorie J. Albohm, a certified athletic trainer affiliated with the Indiana Orthopedic Hospital in Indianapolis. "It's not about how many miles you run or how much you can bench-press. It is about balance, strength and mobility, which will protect you against falls and injuries as you age."
Equipment isn't costly. Many trainers and physical therapists are devising programs using exercise balls ($20), resistance bands ($4) and light weights ($2 and up). Yoga and Pilates classes are increasingly popular for those over 45. Stretching before and after exercise is critical—and doesn't cost anything. More gyms are adding fitness classes that emphasize range of motion and balance.
COST: An evaluation and program devised by a physical therapist starts at about $150 to $200; weekly training with a certified athletic trainer runs from $1,500 to $3,500 a year.
DOWNSIDE: You can't brag about how far you ran or how much you lifted. Start early enough and you won't get to experience the latest advances in arthroscopy and hip replacement. But that's a small price to pay.
FOR MORE: Good advice for boomer fitness can be found at acefitness.org/getfit.
How to look younger
The price and pain of vanity are dropping, but nothing's free
UP TO $15,000
ABOUT 60% OF MEN have significant balding by age 50. (About 2% of women also suffer major hair loss.) Medications work, but only so well. Transplants offer better results.
Doctors take small tufts of hair from the back of the head and move them to the front or top of the scalp. New techniques make the plugs less painfully obvious.
COST: $3,000 per procedure. Typically, three to five are needed.
DOWNSIDE: The surgery—and the bill—still hurt plenty. Plus, restored hair still looks thin.
UP TO $7,000
THE TRADITIONAL FACE-LIFT'S popularity is sagging, down about 20% since 2000. Wary of the wind-tunnel look, a long recovery period and a $15,000 bill, patients are opting for subtler, cheaper and less painful procedures. A brow lift, for example, smooths deep furrows in the forehead; drooping eyelids can be corrected at the same time by removing excess skin, fat or muscle from the upper and lower eyelids. Results usually last about five years.
"I can do a lot to maintain that youthful look without resorting to a formal face-lift," says Dr. Richard A. D'Amico, president-elect of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. "Boomers are starting the process earlier, and they are careful about scheduling the necessary regular maintenance." Sort of like a Lexus.
COST: $5,000 to $7,000
WHAT'S NEW: The thread lift. A tiny thread is inserted under the tissues of the face. Barbs on the thread lift sagging skin; tiny teeth on the thread's other end anchor the skin to facial tissues. Done under local anesthesia, the procedure is good for about a year.
THE DOWNSIDE: Threads sometimes snap on one side, causing the face to fall. You may look like you've had a stroke until you can be repaired, and that likely will require surgery.
FOR MORE: Go to yourplasticsurgeryguide.com. The site's material is reviewed by practitioners (who do, of course, have an interest in the growth of cosmetic surgery).
UP TO $6,000
THE FIRST GENERATION TO MAKE TANNING a sport (recall the George Hamilton Cocoa Butter Open?) is paying the price in wrinkles, brown spots, broken capillaries and other signs of aging skin on the face, neck and hands.
For mild damage, nonsurgical prescription treatments such as Retin-A and alpha hydroxy fade freckles, age spots and other discolorations. Side effects are few.
COST: $200 to $800 a year
Moderate to severe damage requires more costly and painful treatments that burn or sand off the top layers of skin.
COST: $500 to $6,000
THE DOWNSIDE: Topicals and sanding procedures work, but once you're past your early fifties, skin damage isn't your big problem. It's the loss of fat cells that causes skin to sag. No cream or scraping will fix that.
DOCTORS HAVE AN EXPANDING TOOL KIT of "injectables and fillers," though. Botox, the most popular injectable, paralyzes the tiny muscles around the eye that cause frown lines and crow's-feet. Also popular are compounds and proteins such as collagen that fill or plump up wrinkles, scars, thin lips, frown lines and folds around the nose and mouth.
COST: $300 a treatment for Botox; more for other injectables, which require more skill with the needle
DOWNSIDE: These treatments can wear off in months, so you could be getting stuck several times a year. Some doctors use fat taken from a patient's buttocks to fill in facial lines. The benefit should last longer than with most injectables. In reality, most of the fat is reabsorbed, so being a "butthead" is still a temporary solution. But it's an expensive one, at $2,000-$5,000 a procedure.
WHAT'S NEW: Longer-lasting treatments. Sculptra, for example, is a filler used on cheeks and eyes—and it lasts up to two years.
UP TO $9,000
DEMAND FOR WHITENING HAS INCREASED fivefold over the past decade. It's now a billion-dollar business. There's simple bleaching as well as laser whitening, both of which last about a year. If your teeth are bad enough and your wallet is fat enough, wafer-thin porcelain shells can be bonded onto the front of the teeth. They last about 15 years and don't stain.
COST: $500 for bleaching, $1,000 for the laser. Porcelain runs $1,000 a tooth.
MORE ADULTS ARE WEARING BRACES in their quest for a Hollywood smile. Clear ceramic ones allow you to avoid those "tinsel teeth" taunts at the gym.
COST: $4,000 to $9,000
THE DOWNSIDE: Braces will hurt you more than they did your kids. Treatment may take two years.
UP TO $15,000
ABOUT 324,000 PEOPLE IN THE U.S. had clumps of fat suctioned out of their abdomen, necks, arms, legs and face in 2005. Recent advances in liposuction mean less pain and a faster recovery. Risks are low, and fat can't return where there are no longer fat cells.
THE DOWNSIDE: That doesn't mean you can't gain weight after lipo. You'll just lard up in areas where there are fat cells. And you have to wear a mighty uncomfortable girdle for months after the procedure.
COST: $2,000 to $15,000
WHAT'S NEW: Abdominal etching. After suctioning, the doctor sculpts grooves in the remaining fat layers to give you washboard abs without the work.
COST: $3,000 to $10,000 on top of standard lipo.
THE DOWNSIDE: A handful of surgeons in the country have the skill to do the job right. And do you really want to look like an overchiseled rapper?