Why Older People Should Get a Tattoo
Is It Okay to Get a Tattoo When You Are Older?
This isn't an article encouraging young people to wait until they are older before getting a tattoo. It isn't an article saying that everyone should have one.
Rather, this is an article listing some good reasons why people who want tattoos should get them, regardless of their age.
"I always wanted a tattoo, but I never got one. I guess it's too late now..."
Is this you? It shouldn't be. Even though society places stereotypes on tattoos, in truth, they are body art. As such, are free to be enjoyed by everyone.
The most common (non-religious and non-cultural) reasons people DON'T get tattoos after a certain age include:
- Concerns about professional image
- Worry about later regrets
- Peer and family response
- Health issues
Here we will examine whether or not these concerns are quickly becoming obsolete.
Think About Location
Tattoos come in many sizes and can be placed anywhere on the body. If you are worried about what your boss or colleagues will think, you can always opt for a more private tattoo.
A Tattoo Won't Harm Your Professional Image
"You'll never get a decent job if you have a tattoo."
That myth is still burned into most people's minds in regards to tattoos. Tattooed people work in gas stations, burger joints, or road crews. Well, that is true. But...they also work in nursing homes, doctor's offices, hospitals, banks, lawyer's offices, insurance agencies, 5-star restaurants, schools and a variety of other professions.
I personally know five nurses, three doctors, three bankers, two bank tellers, two small business owners, an insurance agent, a judge, four real estate agents, and a host of clerks, secretaries, teachers, and professors that sport visible tattoos. Why? Because the professional world is becoming much more lenient towards tattoos.
For those who already have solid careers, work ethics and skills are already well established. Older people may be looking at retiring, may already be retired, or may be exploring self-employment part-time. In any of these cases, a tattoo is certainly not going to hurt your financial future.
Chances are, if you practice proper deportment at work, a tattoo is less likely to draw negative attention. After all, your talents, skills, and attitude should speak louder than your body art, regardless of how many tattoos you have!
Test the Waters
Try sporting a temporary tattoo for a day or so before deciding on a real one. Sporting a temporary design is a great way to see how those around you will respond. Plus, you can try several designs and areas of the body, which can help you later with permanent tattoo location.
Art Needs No Regret
"You'll regret having that tattoo when you are older."
Regardless of what age you are when you get a tattoo, you are very likely to hear the above comment. Whether the tattoo is as fleeting as a band logo, or as symbolic as your child's birthdate, someone is bound to disapprove.
As an older adult, you probably have a clear idea of what you like, and why. Today, more people of all ages are choosing tattoos that are symbolic rather than those that are trendy.
These can either be universally recognized symbols, such as a peace sign, or they may be something that is significant only to the individual receiving the tattoo. Some examples of symbolic tattoos include:
- Butterflies (freedom)
- Religious symbols
- Flowers (either for flower meaning or to represent someone)
- Astrological symbols
- Zodiac symbols
- Names of children/grandchildren
- Awareness ribbons
As an older, (and hopefully mature) adult, you will most likely think long and hard about what you want to apply. Or you may wander into a tattoo parlor out of curiosity, see a design, and know that it is the right tattoo and the right time for you. If you really want that band logo tattoo, there are plenty of bands that are so iconic and legendary, your tattoo will still be in style 100 years from now!
Some Tattoo Designs That Can Last a Lifetime
Are you a...?
Pen nib with ink drop
Paint palette silhouette
Your artist signature
Needle and thread with stitches
Button, quilt block,
Flower for each child
First initials linked in a chain
Geometric shape for each child
Film strip band
Quote from favorite photographer
Silhouette of The Thinker
Stylized question mark
Little bit of everything
Your zodiac symbol
Tattoos and Age
How do you feel about older people getting a tattoo?
You Have the Right to Be Eccentric
"What were you thinking?"
One of the best reasons to get a tattoo when older, is that you have earned the right to be eccentric. So what if you are the only 50, 60, 70, or 80 year old on the block getting inked? Be a trendsetter!
The older you are, the more you have earned the right to be yourself. Maybe you want to sell all of your possessions and backpack around the world. Maybe you want to start wearing Victorian clothing and have tea parties in the garden. Or maybe you just want to get a tattoo.
As people age, they (hopefully) become more comfortable with themselves. They learn to separate what they really like from social expectations of what they should like. With experience comes the realization that that those social norms are ever changing, and the only way to truly be happy is to please yourself.
It Won't Kill You
Getting a tattoo as an older person holds no extra risks. When I spoke to my husband's doctor about tattoos she said that the health concerns regarding tattoos for an older person were the same for anyone.
You want a reputable tattoo artist, clean equipment, and a sterile environment. There are very few reasons why a person would be medically advised to avoid tattoos. If you are concerned, speak to your doctor.
Just remember that people who are anti-tattoo (or anti-anything for that matter) tend to use negativity and fear tactics. So if you really want a tattoo, get a second or maybe a third opinion. Doctor's are health professionals, and should not bring their own personal opinions into their practice.
Here are some awesome people I have met who were tattooed at a later age, and their health conditions:
- My husband: A diabetic who has had a heart attack. He discussed the risks with his doctor and she gave him the go-ahead. He took extra care of the tattoos while they were healing. His tattoo? The name of our daughter, the baby they told us we could never conceive because of his diabetes.
- My brother-in-law: A diabetic with liver failure. He got his tattoo before his transplant because he knew that he would not be able to afterwards. (those taking any immunosuppressant drugs should talk to their doctor before getting tattoos!) His tattoo? the Icarus symbol with the name of his son, who was killed in a car accident.
- "Jane": A 78-year-old woman with heart disease who got a tattoo because "She didn't have to answer to anyone anymore." She had been an abused wife for many years. Her tattoo? A butterfly and floral wreath.
- "Ronnie": A 68-year-old man who was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer's. His tattoo? A line reading " My name is Ronnie, my wife's name is Paula" to remind him later when his memory failed him.
- "Ellen": A 62-year-old breast cancer survivor who, along with her daughter and granddaughter, got a tattoo on her on wrist. Their matching tattoos? Pink hearts with the silhouette of the awareness ribbon.
These are just some of the older people I have met that have gotten tattoos later in life. There are more. Many more. They get symbolic tattoos. They get tattoos that mean something to them. They get tattoos just because they liked a design.
Whatever their motivation, none of them had any health implications from the actual tattoo. What they did have though, was immense emotional satisfaction from their choices.
Despite the warning "it will stretch out as you age" tattoos usually look the same on older people. If you are worried about that, try these places on your body:
- Upper arm
These days, even the very elderly are as vital and youthful in appearance as their younger relatives. Genetics and self-care play a huge part in how your skin ages.
You Have a Lot to Celebrate
So many people fear growing older. But what really defines "older"? Every day we are older people than we were yesterday. Every day we learn something new. Every year we see more milestones, goals accomplished, trials survived and memories made.
A tattoo can be a great way of celebrating all of these fragments of life that make you who you are. It doesn't mean you have to tattoo your life story on your back (unless you want to!)
You can choose the most important parts and work them into a design that reflects your personality and achievements.
Because You Want To!
This is the best reason to get a tattoo. Never mind what other people think. If you want to get tattooed, but you aren't "young'', who is to stop you? Only you.
After all, if:
- A tattoo is legal
- A tattoo can be personal
- A tattoo won't ruin your career
- A tattoo won't kill you
- A tattoo won't make your friends dump you
- A tattoo won't change who you are inside
Then why shouldn't you go for it?
To Tattoo or Not to Tattoo?
When researching this article, both online, and in person, I kept a small notebook and scribbled people's opinions of tattoos. Later, I noted that all responses to the idea of tattoos fell under three distinct categories:
- I want/have tattoos.
- I hate tattoos and don't think they should be legal.
- I don't like them, but I don't care if others have them.
For fun, here is some of the extra insight I discovered during this little journey. When I spoke to people who had tattoos, they were further divided into sub-groups:
- I got tattoos and I now regret them
- I got tattoos and I've never had problems with them, and I want more.
- I got a tattoo (or more), and now I am satisfied.
When I asked the regret group what it was about the tattoos that they regretted, here were the most common responses:
- I feel I defiled my body.
- Now I think they are a sin.
- My partner doesn't approve, or I don't have a partner because I have this tattoo.
Interesting! I went on to speak to groups 2 and 3. All were employed, including a Minister (with a very blatant cross wrist tattoo). Of the 24, all were married or in lifelong partnerships, with the exception of one widower.
None of them ever said that tattoos in any way hindered their life, love or happiness. If that is true of tattoos you carry for many years, it can certainly be true for tattoos you choose to get later in life.
For the record, the top reasons that people claimed tattoos should be illegal were for religious reasons or because they felt tattoos to be tacky. Followed of course by how they would ruin your life.
Basically, this means that there is no right or wrong answer to the question of whether or not you should get a tattoo. Only opinion. But I will leave you with a list of awesome celebrities age 30 and over who have tattoos. And my personal opinion, which is that I feel the human body to be beautiful at every age, at any size, and with or without decoration.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Jayme Kinsey