More boomers going for their first tattoo. 16% of those 55 years old and older have been tattooed
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Maybe you didn’t get a tattoo earlier in life because of professional reasons. Now, about 30% of Americans have at least one tattoo, up from 21% in 2012, according to a 2019 Ipsos poll. Currently, 16% of those 55 years old and older have been tattooed.
Generations ago, tattoos were for military men, inmates and biker guys.
For the past 20 years, tattooing has made inroads into most other walks of life and people of many occupations. Even people working in professional environments such as medical, financial and legal can get tattooed without endangering their careers.
Since the social stigma surrounding tattooing has dissipated, you may feel freer to get inked to commemorate, celebrate or just enjoy art to wear. And even though you’re an older adult, there’s really no reason you can’t have a tattoo at any age. In some ways, it can be an ideal time.
Without the impetuosity of youth, you are more likely to select a design and location you will not regret. While tattoo removal is possible through lasers or, for smaller ones, surgery, it usually leaves a scar. Some people with regrettable tats, such as an ex’s name or a trend that fades, choose a “cover up” piece of artwork.
You also have the funds to choose a quality shop. Look for one with both a professional, hygienic atmosphere but also experienced artists who listen to their clients. Check their social media pages and sites such as Yelp to see how other patrons feel about their experiences.
“The only difference is it seems to bother us more,” said T.J. Dill, 53, a tattoo artist at White Tiger Tattoo in Rochester.
Dill has received tattoos in her 20s and in her 50s. She said that it did not bother her as much when she was younger as it has with more recent art. But she said that in general, it is not inordinately more painful to get tattooed in her 50s.
“A lot of my clients in their 50s handle tattoos remarkably,” Dill said. “People don’t have problems with skin integrity until they’re 80 or unless they’ve been avidly tanning or abusing their skin. Some people in their early 20s [have] unhealthy skin and ones in their 60s have terrible skin.”
If you have been a sun worshipper for years or have skin conditions that make your skin more fragile, that may make the process a little more painful and, for the tattoo artist, more challenging. Skin with less elasticity causes the tattooing ink to smudge, especially if the artist has less experience.
Medical conditions may also make a difference. Since tattooing is basically causing a wound by injecting ink under the first layer of skin, people who do not heal well will take longer to recover, such as insulin-dependent diabetics. The older people are, the longer it tends to take to heal, too.
Less elasticity can make it a little tougher to perform detailed work. If you are considering a tattoo, seek a skilled and experienced artist to perform the work.
Photo: T.J. Dill, 53, a tattoo artist at White Tiger Tattoo in Rochester (left): “A lot of my clients in their 50s handle tattoos remarkably,” Dill says. On the right is Gretchen DeBerry, a friend.