What Does Being Too Old Really Mean?

Blog#192- 2/29/24

By Richard Davis

There has been a lot of talk about electing someone to the office of President of the United States, perhaps the most demanding job in the world, who is in his eighties. Joe Biden was born in 1942 making him the oldest person to sit in the oval office. People express misgivings about voting for him because of his age, but there is very little discussion of what exactly they fear about his age.

It is time to unpack the issues relating to an octogenarian president to see if they will really make it difficult for Biden to continue in office. The worst case scenario is that he dies in office. Males at 80 years old have a seven year life expectancy. That is based on averages, but when it comes to Biden, he is not your average 81 year old. He remains mostly physically fit and his father died at 86 and his mother at 92, so he has some genetic longevity working for him. He had a physical a few days ago and was declared physically fit to perform the duties of President. His doctor felt no need for cognitive testing.

If he dies in office Kamala Harris would take over as President. Her potential competency for the job does not seem to be an issue with voters. I haven’t heard talk of fear of Harris becoming President. She has mostly stayed in the background but I think she would do a good job. And she would be the first woman President and would have a good chance of being elected if she proves herself.

Biden walks like an old man. He is stiff but tries to put a little lift in his step. That is more of a perception issue because it really has nothing to do with running the country. Roosevelt lived in a wheelchair during his time in the White House and he did not allow photographers to show him in a wheelchair because he knew perception was more important to the voting public than reality.

If Biden ended up needing a wheelchair or some assistive device while in office people would see that as a sign of weakness. The truth is that he could govern well no matter what the state of his mobility, but people are judgmental and easily jump to conclusions not based in reality.

Another issue for voters is Biden memory and his lack of verbal fluency at times. Biden is not in the early stages of dementia as was Reagan when he was in office. Biden forgets things as much as you would expect any 81 year old to. Just because a president forgets a few dates or names doesn’t mean he is unfit for office. We need to be mindful of the fact that he is surrounded by a large staff of support people who make sure he stays on track, if and when he needs that kind of coaching. There are a lot of checks and balances in place.

The most important issue to concern voters should be Biden’s judgment. He is clear headed about dealing with international and domestic issues and if you compare his speeches to those of Trump it is clear that Trump is the one who is incoherent at times and who lacks the ability to look at any issue objectively. That is not a function of age but of mental status. Trump is delusional and unhinged and we need to compare the rhetoric of Biden with that of Trump to make it clear who belongs in the White House and who should never set foot in there again.

There are also a lot of health problems that Biden could end up having to deal with, but because he is way above average in health for a man of his age and because he has so few risk factors for disease, he will always be in the statistical group that is least likely to develop a disease. Trump is a health time bomb and he has a better chance of having a stroke or heart attack in office than Biden.

Weigh the facts before you pass judgment on an old man. He has done a good job as President and it is worth taking any risk in re-electing him.

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