When Is Old Too Old?

By Frank Blechman

I am a baby boomer. You’re welcome.

I am now in my mid-70s, shorter, fatter and slower than I was 50, 40, or even 30 years ago. My children are grown and living on their own. I don’t think I am “old” but the guy in the mirror is dumpy and gray. My doctor tells me that I should do all kinds of things even though it is too late for them to make much difference.

I am now in my mid-70s, shorter, fatter and slower than I was 50, 40, or even 30 years ago.

Should I be running the country? As much as I respect my experience and judgment, I think I should not be asked to work 100 hours a week in a thankless job. Luckily for everybody, at this point in my life I have no ambition to run the country.

Curiously, several contemporaries of mine seem to think they are exactly what the country, and maybe the world, needs. To name names: Trump and Biden are both just a little older than I am. Both are displaying behavior that would be called “erratic” even in polite company. Both misspeak, misbehave, misremember, and mischaracterize. In my dubious opinion, one (Trump) is much worse than the other (Biden). Yet, it’s a matter of degree. In many occupations, each would have been forced into retirement years ago.

Our founding fathers understood that age was a factor in determining eligibility for public trust. They set minimum age requirements for service in the House of Representatives (25), Senate (30), and for President (35). They did not set upper limits. Benjamin Franklin was already 81 years old when he played a major role at the constitutional convention of 1787.

We’re healthier now than we were 200 years ago. We live longer. We look better. Baby boomers, the Peter-Pan generation that never wanted to grow up, have sought and achieved eternal irresponsibility for seven decades, with a few exceptions.

We’re healthier now than we were 200 years ago. We live longer. We look better. Baby boomers, the Peter-Pan generation that never wanted to grow up, have sought and achieved eternal irresponsibility for seven decades, with a few exceptions.

Personally, I began stepping back about five years ago. I did not seek re-election to offices and explicitly encouraged younger folks to step up. I have personally favored and supported candidates for office who are half my age. I stopped marketing my consulting services (although I am still happy to take money for my advice, when asked). I began to catch up on backlogged reading.

My goal in raising my children was for them to become independent, responsible, constructive members of society. I celebrated each step they took toward those goals. My goal as a social activist has been much the same. I want my community and my country to be resilient, inventive, and productive members of the global system. I fought for social justice at every level. Yet, I never thought I could do it alone. I never felt that I was personally or uniquely responsible. I never put on tights and a cape, promising to leap tall buildings at a single bound.

I think our likely presidential nominees are too old for the job they seek. If they were as wise as they claim, they would know this. . . . Everyone should recognize that no matter how special they are, they–we–are not indispensable.

So, today, it is not a stretch for me to say that I think our likely presidential nominees are too old for the job they seek. If they were as wise as they claim, they would know this, and would have intentionally stepped aside to make room for others.

Given that the nominees are who they are, I will vote for one of them in November. As I do so, however, I will be watching closely to see if there is enough self-awareness left for the nominee to name a young VP. I would be heartened to hear a nominee declare now that he will not seek reelection in 2024.

History teaches us that stereotypes are dangerous. Some monarchs have ruled honorably into their eighties. Perhaps there is no age limit to public service. Perhaps I am projecting my own weariness unreasonably onto others.

Or, perhaps, I am right. Everyone should know their limits. Everyone should recognize that no matter how special they are, they–we–are not indispensable. Maybe we need classes for seniors in “how to let go.” Like anything else, it takes practice to do it well. 

 

 



Categories: elections, Issues, National, politics

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