Why you should not vote for 70 year old presidential candidates
Why is it that a bunch of septuagenarians are coming forward to lead the US? On the Republican side we have 73 year old Donald Trump while on the Democratic ticket, three of the top 5 candidates will be their 70s on inauguration day. These individuals are, at least, 3 years older than the revised retirement age in the US. Looking at it from another angle, all of them were born before 1950. Are these the top people the United States of America can put forward to take the country towards the challenges that it faces and are they the best choice we have to navigate and identify the landscape of opportunities that present themselves? I don’t think so.
Some might debate that age is like fine wine; it gets better with time. But in the world we live in, we don’t need people to gain value by sitting on their side on a shelf; we want people who are dynamic and vibrant in both mind and body. Those of us who are lucky to have a parent or grandparent in their 70s can relate to the fact that even the most active of them are great at sharing experiences and wisdom from bygone days but when push comes to shove they are not able in body and/or mind to handle the complex challenges in life. Very few would give an individual in their mid-70s unlimited control to manage a massive undertaking at a personal level, yet we do so with our country for a lengthy 4 years.
As people grow old, it becomes increasingly more difficult for them to take on concepts that apply to the current world. The advisors of these aging politicians may teach them how to pose for selfies and jut out the twitter lines but what about the serious stuff that impacts the medium and long term opportunities of the average Joe? What about diplomacy and promoting America and its values? The frame of mind of our pensioner presidential candidates has hardened and it is very difficult for them to listen to and accept other points of view. This is supported by a study titled “Normal Cognitive Aging” published in Clinics in Geriatric Medicine (Volume 29, Issue 4, November 2013). The authors found that for persons in their 70s, skills that have been learned and used throughout one’s life remain stable while a person’s abilities related to problem solving, learning new information and attending to and manipulating their environment decline. The study attributes these memory changes to slowed processing speed, reduced ability to ignore irrelevant information, and decreased use of strategies to improve learning and memory. This Thanksgiving, try to convince great uncle Bart to change his view on a topic.
A younger President would be able to help the country be more tolerant on topics such LGBT+, legal marijuana, the right to bear arms (without harming innocent folk), the environment, climate change, health care and equal rights of different groups be they based on gender, race or religion. By tolerant one does not mean agreeing with everything and pleasing everyone but accepting that there are different opinions and having a mindset to pick and choose the best ideas.
Topics such as work-life balance, life aspirations of the younger generations, how technology interacts and intermingles with our existence, how we consume content and how we communicate with one another is foreign to people born before the 1950s. Sure, their campaigns can hire the best gurus to make them look hip, but at heart they are reasoning at a different level. Today the way society demonstrates caring and respect is different from how it was 33 years ago because ideals and society’s definitions of what is right or wrong have changed. A third of a century ago, the persons mentioned here were in their 40s. It was a time when it was still possible to smoke in public places, A gallon of gasoline cost 61c ($1.97 in today’s money), sexual harassment was tolerated, the inequality between the sexes was the accepted norm and one could watch shows involving blackface on TV. Life expectancy was 5 years less than it is today.
Age also carries a higher risk of death. Today life expectancy in the USA is under 79 years. Donald Trump would be 78 years old if he completed his second term, Bernie Sanders would be 79, Joe Biden would be 84 and Elizabeth Warren would be 75. Someone who is 75 years old has under a 4% chance of dying within the year and a 20% chance of dying within the following 5. The US has checks and balances to ensure the smooth continuation of government in such an eventuality, but how many people factor in the Vice President when they are casting their ballot?
Besides death, there are less visibly apparent conditions such as dementia in one of its many forms. According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, a person’s risk of developing dementia rises from 7.14% over the age of 65, to 16.67% over the age of 80. After the age of 65, a person’s risk of developing this condition doubles every 5 years.
Article 2 of the constitution stipulates that a president needs to be at least 35 years old. The reason this minimum age was because our founding fathers believed that anyone serving the highest role in the country had to be mature. Yet our founding fathers never established an upper age limit. A plausible reason for this failure to specify a maximum age is that life expectancy at the time was almost half of what it is today so our founding fathers never foresaw this development. They would have undoubtedly dictated an upper age limit had they know how much life expectancy would increase and the afflictions that would prevail in people who are blessed to live to this ripe old age.
Sometimes one wonders whether people in their 70s are in the Presidential race because of a sense of civic duty or because they have one last to-do on their bucket list. Former President Jimmy Carter said that he did not believe an 80-year old could handle the responsibilities of being a president. He joked that he “hopes there is an age limit on the office”.
As there isn’t, we, the voters, need to establish one by how we cast our vote in the primaries and next November.