Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Presidential nominees' age doesn't seem to matter

We who remember the 1980 presidential race recall the anxiety being expressed about Ronald Reagan's age. The Gipper would turn 70 just a few weeks after the inauguration. That was a matter of real concern. Would he be able to complete his four-year term? Would old age catch up to him before he completed his term?

As it turned out, Reagan had plenty of stamina for his first term, and he was overwhelmingly elected to a second term, when he made a joke about the age issue, telling Walter Mondale he would not hold the younger candidate's youth and inexperience against him. But there has been some speculation that unforced errors and slip-ups near the end of Reagan's second term might have been related to early signs of the Alzheimer's disease that he announced less than six years after leaving office in a public letter that is one of the most touching and profound documents in presidential history.

Where is the concern about the age of presidential candidates this year? Donald Trump is 70 already. Hillary Clinton will be 69 before election day. Bernie Sanders is 74. Of these three candidates, concern about age has been limited to Sanders, whose popular support lies with younger voters.

Should voters be worried about the age of presidential nominees? All of us have known people who had physical and mental limitations in their early 70s, but we have also known people who were physically fit and mentally sharp well into their 80s. Baby boomers (including me) are counting on 70 being the new 50, 80 being the new 60 and so on. We think, at least, that we are aging more gracefully and with better retention of our faculties than previous generations. So a 70-something president isn't such a worry, even one who follows the youthful Barack Obama.

This election year, voters have plenty to worry about concerning the party nominees without being concerned about their ages.

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