The Amend Corner

When age is more than just a number

Posted 10/24/19

This appearance of The Amend Corner is sort of significant — at least as significant as a column produced by a guy like me can be.

I realized that this was a significant column while …

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The Amend Corner

When age is more than just a number

Posted

This appearance of The Amend Corner is sort of significant — at least as significant as a column produced by a guy like me can be.

I realized that this was a significant column while brainstorming ideas in search of a suitable topic I could build a column on. Since we are currently in the second half of October and the World Series is beginning, one of the ideas that ran through my head was baseball, and I remembered that my very first column had been built around baseball. It wasn’t exactly about baseball, but it was baseball that gave me a point of departure on the way to my first published column.

That column, which still resides on two or three hard drives at my house, appeared in the Basin Republican Rustler on Oct. 21, 1999 — 20 years ago this week.

Well, realizing that two full decades have passed since I began submitting my thoughts and opinions to newspaper readers was a reminder that I am getting old. I didn’t really need to be reminded. I have plenty of aches and pains that remind me of my status as a geezer on a daily basis, so I’m pretty well aware of what aging is doing to me.

These days, though, I’m less likely to dwell on my own over-the-hill status and more likely to think about the ages of a certain bunch of prominent old people. They are the people who think they should be the president of the U.S. plus one who actually is the president.

I remember back four decades, when the age of a presidential candidate was an issue in the 1980 campaign. The concern was that Ronald Reagan would be 70 years old by the time he was inaugurated, and if he were elected to a second term, he would be 78 by the time he left office. Would he be able to withstand the pressures the office, or would his abilities decline as his age increased and cause a national disaster if he had to take a nap during a crisis?

Well, as it happened, Reagan did OK, but the fact that his Alzheimer’s disease was revealed within a year or two after he left office makes me wonder if his mental ability was in serious decline during the last months of his presidency.

Today, we are faced with similar concerns about the age of a president in the light of the current campaign, although at least Reagan had a younger opponent. That’s not true this year. Of the three Democratic front-runners, two of them, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, are way ahead of Reagan on the age scale. If Sanders were to be elected, he would be 79 on Inauguration Day — older than Reagan was at the end of his presidency — and he just had a heart attack. Biden would be right behind Sanders at 78 if he were to be elected. The baby of this trio is Elizabeth Warren, who, if elected, would take office at the age of 71 — a year older than Donald Trump was when he was inaugurated.

It happens that another Republican, former Massachusetts governor William Weld, has announced that he is running to replace Trump as the Republican candidate. Weld is actually a year older than Trump, and would be 75 when he takes office, so he’s just another old guy.

Now, I’m not entirely comfortable with the prospect of a president who is already 78 or 79 when he takes office and I’m not much more confident with a 75 year-old president. Worse, I find the prospect of an 87-year-old Sanders serving out his second term as a lame duck absolutely terrifying. As for our current president, I’m completely uncomfortable with him, regardless of his age; I don’t think he’d be any better if he were 10 or 15 years younger.

Please understand, I don’t have anything against people in their 70s. After all, I’m right in the middle of that age group myself. I realize that there are people in my age group who might be fully capable of handling the many problems of this nation. In fact, I’ve known people in their 80s who still have all their faculties and can use them in a positive fashion. I’m also aware that advances in medicine can keep a person in better health.

But I also know that a person’s mental abilities decline as we age, and the threads that tie a person to reality can weaken as one ages or even snap unexpectedly, robbing a person of those abilities in an instant. I’m also aware that some older people have difficulty dealing with change and can’t adjust their thinking when new approaches to a problem are needed.

So in the end, I may end up having to choose between two older candidates when I vote next year, whether I like it or not. I wish a younger candidate will emerge from the many who are running, but it doesn’t look as though that will happen.

I just hope the candidates for vice president are younger.

The Amend Corner

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