Turning 50 seems to be the perfect time to go under the needle. No, we're not talking Botox and fillers. We're talking about tattoos.
More and more post 50s are getting inked for the very first time and no, it's not part of some so-called midlife crisis journey. It's about confidence, empowerment, and celebrating strength after decades of challenges.
We asked our readers to share their stories of what motivated them to get a tattoo for the very first time. Their answers were moving. From love, to loss, to beating cancer, every design has a special meaning to its bearer.
And for anyone wondering what those tattoos will look like as they get older, they have one thing to say to you. "I already am old and this is what they look like!" is how Joanne Keith put it. Fabulous.
Here's their incredible body art and the even more amazing stories of what prompted them to tick tattoos off their bucket list.
Ken Presley, 65
“My wife and I started dating at age 60 and she said she would like to get a tattoo, but was afraid to go through with it. When she retired, her co-workers gave her a gift certificate to a local tattoo parlor. It was a challenge to her to follow through with what she had said so many times earlier. So at age 63, she and I both got our first tattoo. I loved the look so much, I got another one at age 64 … and another this month at age 65. Yes, already planning more!”
Joanne Keith, 55
“When I was younger, it was illegal in my state of Massachusetts to get tattoos. When I was 35, I traveled to another state to get one on my lower back … long before they were called ‘tramp stamps!’ The second was at age 45. Fast forward to when I turned 50 … I went on a first date with a man to a tattoo parlor. Watching him get his and the sound of the machines as well as the true artistry that was going on all around me sucked me in and I wanted another badly! Sadly I no longer date that man but I get tattoos whenever my pocketbook and time allow! When I am in the old folks' home and someone is giving me a sponge bath, they will roll me over and say to a colleague ...'Look at this one, I bet she was fun.' People will even ask what will they look like when you get old? I just smile ... and say ‘I already am old and this is what they look like!’"
Candace Karu, 63
“I got my first tattoo to mark my 40th birthday. My children were horrified, at the time. It’s a small wreath of ivy that sits on my shoulder, mostly hidden, but prominent when I’m at CrossFit or running in warm weather. My second tattoo came at a turbulent time in my life, right around my 60th birthday. It is larger, more prominent, and makes a bolder statement than my first. Two hearts entwined, a symbol of The Order of the Unified Heart. My daughter, now 33, recently got the same symbol on her arm. We’ve both come a long way.”
Cheri Barad, 61
“I got my only tattoo after age 50. It is the Chinese symbol for 'Brave/Strong/Strength.' I decided to get it after surviving colon cancer twice -- yes twice. Some cancer survivors elect to have their cancer colored ribbon etched on them. I just wanted to have something that was personal, as I feel I am strong and brave, but not just for 'thriving' after cancer. Would I do another? Most likely not. This is the one I wanted and it is all I need. I have no objection to people who have multiple tattoos, I just am happy with what I have.”
Margaret Bierman, 50
“I took my daughter to get her first tattoo at age 18. Surprisingly, I loved the creative process of it. I intended to drop her off and return afterwards but ended up staying for the three-hour process. It was fascinating to watch the tattoo emerge! At that point, I still had no desire at that time to get one of my own. Next my husband decided to take the plunge. He is a very enthusiastic scuba diver and wanted artwork reflecting the theme of marine life in Northern California. After several years of admiring his tattoos, I wanted my own. My 50th birthday was the perfect opportunity!”
Melinda Green, 65
"After I retired from the United States Postal Service at age 57, I got my first tattoo. I had thought about getting one, on and off, for years. Now, eight years later, I have six tattoos and don't regret it at all."
Nancy Faegans, 70
"My first tattoo was in 1995. It's a Celtic love bond, intertwined rosebuds, and the initials D. L. I had been with my boyfriend Dan L. two years at that point and we decided to design a special tattoo that would emphasize our relationship. I knew in my heart we'd be together for a very long time so decided to go for it. The placement was on my upper-left thigh, and though it's faded a bit over the last 20 years I think it still looks good. The second tattoo I got in October 2011 after watching an amazing documentary. The film moved me like no other and I felt an inexplicable connection to this man. I decided to get a tattoo to honor the man’s memory. I love it to this day!”
Alura Lee, 66
“I celebrated my 60th birthday with my two daughters by getting my one and only tattoo. After a couple of failed marriages, I decided I didn't need a man's last name to define me. I legally changed my name to my first and middle birth names: Alura Lee. My daughter-in-law created the design of my name with delicate scrolling around it. I wear it proudly on my left shoulder. I have never regretted the decision of the design or placement. After all, as I tell my children, if the worst happens they can always identify me!”