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Worried Biden and Trump are too old to be president? Calm down, experts on aging say

(Credit: Morry Gash-Pool/Getty Images)

Jacob Fischler, Georgia Recorder
February 15, 2024

Age should not preclude either Joe Biden or Donald Trump from serving another four years as president, a group of aging experts said Thursday at a webinar organized by the American Federation for Aging Research.

If Biden, 81, and Trump, 77, are the candidates on Election Day, as appears likely right now, they would break their own record — set four years ago — as the oldest candidates in U.S. history.

But despite recent intense media coverage and significant skepticism from voters about both men, the presumptive nominees of both major parties appear up to the task of governing, the panel members agreed.

People age at different rates, and the ill effects of advanced age don’t appear to be having an impact on Biden or Trump, said S. Jay Olshansky, a professor of public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago and research associate at the Center on Aging at the University of Chicago.

“Both in Biden and Trump’s case, we’ve got evidence to suggest … they’re doing exceptionally well,” Olshanksy said. “Don’t believe what you see in the media about loss of cognitive functioning and the like.”

The candidates fly across the country and sometimes across the world. They can be short on sleep and disoriented by time zone changes. And the pressures of a presidential campaign can magnify perceived failings, he added.

“I get a phone call every time either one of them stumbles or says something that’s off kilter,” Olsahnsky said. “They’re going, ‘What’s wrong?’

“I’m going, ‘Seriously, this happens to virtually all of us.’”

Available medical information suggests both candidates are doing fine, he added.

Both have family histories of “exceptional longevity,” with family members living into their 90s, Olshansky said.

Both are likelier than the average man their age to survive the next four years, Olshansky said. Biden and Trump are about 75% likely to live to the end of a potential second term, while the national average is 70%, he said.

Neither candidate drinks alcohol and Biden has eaten a healthy diet all his life and remains physically active, which reduces his cardiovascular risk, said Dr. Bradley Wilcox, the director of research at the department of geriatric medicine at the University of Hawaii’s medical school.

Ben Barnes, a former Democratic lieutenant governor of Texas who was first elected to that state’s legislature in 1960 at the age of 22, said age should not factor into a voter’s choice for president.

“There’s so many more important things about the candidates and about who the next president of the United States is going to be than their age,” Barnes said.

“Obviously, there’s some people who cannot function at the ages that these two candidates are and should not be considered for president. But I don’t think that age is something that should preclude either one of these people from becoming president.”

American Federation for Aging Research, a private nonprofit whose mission is to advance research on aging, scheduled the event before a string of recent events that brought renewed questions about Biden’s age.

Questions about age persist

But surveys of voters show that voters are concerned about the advanced age of both presidential candidates, particularly Biden.

More than three-quarters of respondents to an NBC News poll last month said they had either major or moderate concerns that Biden had the necessary mental and physical health to perform as president for a second term.

Prone to speaking gaffes even as a younger politician, Biden recently confused the names of foreign heads of states twice in a week.

While referring to the current leaders of France and Germany, he used the names of the countries’ deceased leaders of a generation ago.

Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Hur questioned Biden’s mental acuity while clearing the president of wrongdoing in his handling of sensitive documents, saying one of the reasons prosecutors didn’t bring charges against Biden was that they believed Biden “would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

In a press conference to complain about some details of Hur’s report, including passages questioning his memory, Biden mistakenly referred to the president of Egypt as the president of Mexico.

Trump, who has often lied and exaggerated throughout his public life and continues to do so on the campaign trail, also recently sustained seeming lapses in memory.

In October, he mixed up the identities of the presidents of Hungary and Turkey and last month appeared to mistake his GOP primary rival Nikki Haley with former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

He later said the Pelosi-Haley swap was intentional.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: info@georgiarecorder.com. Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Georgia Recorder under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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