Old age is something of a boogeyman for many of us – the prospect of deteriorating physical and mental faculties, less independence and even less hair keep young adults firmly appreciative of their youthful years. But one group in particular has even more of a reason to fear the aging process than most – those with tattoos.
Even among those who have yet to ink their skin, the prospect of aging and the effect it will have on tattoos serves as a serious sticking point. The wrinkles, thinning skin and weight loss or gain often associated with aging has serious implications for a form of art that lives on one's skin. But how much of a danger is there really when it comes to growing old with body art? Here are a few things to keep in mind when doing your long-term tattoo planning, including a look at how some seniors have managed their tattoos old and new through the years.
'Til death do you part
The permanence of tattoos may not always be fully considered by some of the more youthful individuals who patronize tattoo shops. But it should absolutely be stated that tattoos, like diamonds, are forever. This means that that butterfly or girlfriend's name you're considering may seem like a good idea now, but it may be a different story years or even months down the road. Changing aesthetic tastes or upheavals in personal lives can leave some with a lingering case of tattoo regret.
Similarly, even if your personal artistic tastes don't change, it's more than likely that your body will. Skin is very pliable thanks to the collagen and elastin it contains – it's what makes you able to smile or make funny faces, and it's what makes skin such a great medium for tattooing in the first place. However, that also means that as people grow older and their bodies change, their tattoos won't necessarily look the same. Tattoos are already prone to fading and blurring over time – when you factor in things like skin wrinkles the difference is likely to be even more noticeable.
Seniors and tattoo stigma
Tattoo regret isn't uncommon among even younger people who choose to adorn their bodies with ink – but what about older adults? Some artists believe that seniors are actually more likely to be carefree when it comes to tattooing since the effects of tattoo stigma don't hit them as hard as it would younger people. For example, while a younger adult may worry about closing potential career doors with tattoos, many seniors are either retired or at a stage in their career where such concerns aren't overly important.
"They say it's more socially acceptable. They've wanted one for years but it's only now they're older they feel they can do it," U.K.-based tattoo artist Jack Peppiette told Obscure Ink Magazine.
It also doesn't hurt that tattoos have become more socially acceptable in general, meaning there's less stigma going around, period.
Wearing your fitness motivation on your sleeve
Many are afraid that their changing, aging body will result in a warping of their tattoo. However, some more optimistic enthusiasts are using this as a motivation to keep themselves in shape now. As one 25-year-old told The Age, being covered in so many tattoos is an intrinsic motivation to stay fit and toned for the rest of her life – otherwise her tattoos are likely to sag. From another perspective, it can motivate people to reconsider the size or location of their ink, since smaller tattoos tend to age better than larger, more innate ones.
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