There was a time when Anna Jean Bishop’s skin care regimen consisted of splashing soap and water on her face.
But 80 years and two decades of desert living does a lot to a fair-skinned complexion. After developing skin cancer on the top of her head (she golfed for years without covering it), the Sun Lakes resident underwent three months of chemotherapy and changed her skin care routine, incorporating mild, nonsoap cleansers, moisturizer and sunscreen.
"It’s a tremendous difference," Bishop said. "I just wish I had been more careful when I was younger."
Problems ranging from malignant growths to dry skin are prompting seniors to visit the dermatologist more often, making geriatric dermatology a growing medical speciality.
"The attitude is no longer one of resignation to aging," said Dr. Toni Stockton, a Mesa dermatologist. "This is just a phase in their lives. They start to think they’re old when they’re 80."
Stockton estimated that almost 40 percent of her patients are 60 and older, and she expects that number will increase as baby boomers begin to retire in the East Valley.
And seniors are fighting the aging process, requesting BOTOX, microdermabrasion, chemical peels, tissue fillers, liposuction and cosmetic surgery.
Removing varicose veins and eyelid surgeries are among the most popular procedures.
"When they’re 60, they want to look 40," Stockton said.
Medicare won’t pay for certain treatments unless they are deemed medically necessary. Getting Medicare to catch up with these needs, however, has been frustrating. Seniors like Bishop must have supplementary insurance to help pay.
Stockton spends a portion of her day on the phone with Medicare, asking them to reconsider a patient’s case. Unless a skin growth or cyst is inflamed, Medicare won’t cover the cost of removal.
"It’s very frustrating for the patient," Stockton said. "It’s hard to get an appeal."