Is Age Really a Factor or Is It Just Political Maneuvering

SUMMARY: The 2024 presidential election has turned into a crash course in gerontology.

On Election Day, former president Donald Trump will be 78 years old, and President Biden will be a couple weeks shy of 82. Never have two people of such advanced age been the nominees of the major political parties, nor has there been a campaign so rife with suspicions and allegations that candidates are showing signs of age-related cognitive decline.

The situation has worried the electorate. In a Marquette Law School poll conducted in March, 77 percent of registered voters said they consider Biden “too old to be president,” while 52 percent said that of Trump. And in a Pew Research survey in April, 62 percent said Biden did not have the “mental fitness needed to do the job,” while 48 percent reached that conclusion about Trump.

But this public discussion of the aging brain ― a scientific topic if ever there was one ― has been conducted largely without reference to any scientific facts.

Research on aging, cognition and dementia has become more robust in a time when about 56 million Americans are over age 65, according to the 2020 Census. But medical land scientific experts warn that media reports and punditry about the candidates’ mental fitness have been marred by misinformation about the aging process.

The experts interviewed for this story were reluctant to speculate on the record about the cognitive health of Biden and Trump, noting that a robust assessment requires an in-depth examination potentially lasting days. They were more eager to speak about the aging process generally and what science can reveal about the aging brain — what’s normal, what’s pathological and how to discern the difference.

They also rejected any suggestion that there should be an upper age limit for the presidency.

Aging is not an unmitigated process of cognitive decline and deterioration, they pointed out. Judgment and emotional stability can improve with age — and may be more essential to effective leadership than, say, the ability to remember names or deliver a speech without a flub.

“The really important thing to keep in mind is that the older brain’s a wiser brain,” said Earl Miller, a professor of neuroscience at MIT. “Knowledge and experience count for a lot, and that can more than make up for slight losses of memory as a result of aging.”

What science tells us about Biden, Trump and evaluating an aging brain, The Washington Post and Abbott Pardons Killing by Racist Who Explicitly Texted Apparent Minor,

Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s Take: This article is about the aging brain in general, but I want to start by addressing the polls mentioned in this article because they reflect the knee-jerk reaction to aging that reflects a deep prejudice unrelated to facts. That suggests most of the people polled have terrible critical thinking skills that are unrelated to their age. That scares me.

I’m younger than both Biden and Trump and I think I’m too old to be president. But what rankles in this poll is that Trump is 77 and Biden is 81—a four-year difference—and yet 25% more thought Biden was too old. Given what we’ve been able to observe in both men through their actions and words, how can 62% think Biden doesn’t have the mental fitness needed to do the job but only 48% think that of Trump? We’re so focused on worrying about the decline of the brain by aging that we miss this clear evidence of the decline of the use of the brain based on the inability to use facts and logic to form opinions. In the best of all words, we’d have younger and more robust candidates. But that, too, was our choice so all that’s left for those with fully functioning brains is to choose which is best for the country.

I suggest you follow the link and read the entire article because it offers some scientific insight into the process of aging and its effects on the brain. For example, when older people fumble names and places—as both Trump and Biden (and myself) have done—it’s not necessarily an indication of declining cognizance. It could simply be depression, temporary dehydration, or a deficiency of vitamin B12.

Older people also tend to be more emotionally stable. Aging reduces negative emotions and lets us see with more clarity what’s worth getting worked up about and what isn’t.

What’s concerning about the debate over Trump and Biden’s age is that it spills over into how society perceives seniors in general. Says Laura Carstensen, a professor of psychology and director of the Stanford Center on Longevity,

“The ageism that underlies these discussions is remarkable.”

She also pointed out . . .

“Emotional regulation, emotional caring, appreciation, motivation to be social with others — all of those go up with age.”

At the same time, it’s reasonable that voters have more information about the physical and mental health of their candidates. Both men should be examined physically and mentally by the same non-partisan doctors and a report on each should be issued. That would make sense. The only reason not to agree to such independent tests is if they had something to hide.

AB: Do we succumb to political lies and maneuvering. I would not give in to this. There is nothing majorly wrong with Biden and there is much to worry about with trump.

Should age matter in politics? VCU professor discusses ageism in the 2024 presidential election and society – VCU News – Virginia Commonwealth University, Olivia Trani.

Here’s the reality: Age alone is a poor predictor of health status because aging is not a homogenous, linear experience. People age and develop differently, and there are no milestones or expectations to make comparisons. If we automatically assume someone of a given age is not capable or in poor health, that is ageism.

People of all ages get names wrong and have stumbles. In fact, when we are under stressful circumstances, we are all more likely to make a gaffe. All candidates for political office should be evaluated on their accomplishments and qualifications rather than by their age.