Senior citizens and fresh tattoos are not typically words you hear mentioned in the same sentence, but there are plenty of people out there who either get their first tattoo late in life, or they continue getting new tattoos as they age. There are an increasing number of stories of octogenarians waltzing into a tattoo parlor for their first tattoo. There is a myth out there that old people can't get new tattoos, and it simply isn't true. Take for example Judi Dench, who at 81 years old, got her first tattoo as a birthday gift from her daughter. It seems appropriate that her tattoo reads "Carpe Diem."
So, while it is true that older people can get fresh ink, it is also true that older skin is different than young, elastic skin. It must be treated differently. There are forums where tattoo artists talk about the differences and difficulties of tattooing old skin, and it is a goldmine of information for tattoo artists who are tasked with inking the elderly. One of the common themes is that tattooing older skin takes more time. A tattoo that might only take one session to complete for an 18 year old client could end up taking two or three sessions for someone more senior. This is because skin becomes thinner and more susceptible to bruising as we age. Aged skin is more fragile, there is a loss of subcutaneous fat, and aging skin repairs itself more slowly than young skin. All these factors will affect the way an artist approaches aging skin.
According to one survey, half of all people in the US and Britain got their first tattoo by the age of 21. More interesting, only 5% of people got their first tattoo after age 60. It makes me wonder why they waited so long, but we all have our reasons. I suspect that people who get tattoos late in life have wanted one for a long time, but have been afraid to get one due to stigma, or maybe their job wouldn't allow it, and after retiring, they were able to fulfill their dream of getting a tattoo.
If you're aging and worried about image quality, then there is some good news. It turns out that there are actually some benefits to waiting until you're a little bit older to get inked. According to Myrna Armstrong, a professor from Texas Tech who studies tattoos, older saggy skin becomes a benefit. She says that "If you already have saggy skin, you don't have to worry about the tattoo sagging." Older people are also less prone to getting impulsive tattoos that they later regret. It's no secret that the indiscretions of youth lead to some awful tattoos. Another benefit is that the tattoo will fade less, because it will have less time to fade, which is a little morbid, but clearly true. It’s also true that there will be less time for the lines to blur, and for the sun to do its damage. So if you're thinking you are too old for a new trick, I’d say you’re incorrect. There are lots of reasons that late is better than never, so go ahead and get that tattoo you have always wanted, I doubt you will regret it later.