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Is America OK With Having ‘Old’ Presidents?

From Gage Skidmore. U.S. Congressman Andy Biggs, President of the United States Donald Trump and U.S. Congressman David Schweikert speaking with supporters at a "Keep America Great" rally at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Arizona.

It’s looking more and more like the 2024 presidential race will be decided between two men on either side of 80. Some experts say that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Donald Trump, during his presidency, became the oldest person elected president, and also the oldest person ever to serve as president. Both of those records, however, have since been broken by Joseph Biden, who took office at age 78, is now 80, and would be 86 at the end of a second term. Biden even joked, earlier this year, that he is “198 years old.” 

Many voters of different ideologies say that they want a younger generation to take over politics, and to want to turn to new leaders who are in their 40s or 50s, rather than 70s or 80s. Nevertheless, Biden and Trump remain far in the lead in their respective presidential contests. 

Now, with Trump running for president again, it’s looking very likely that he and Biden will face off once again in the general election, meaning that whoever wins, we will probably have a very old president starting in 2025. 

Is this a bad thing? Some experts say it may not be. 

The Washington Post looked at that question this week. 

“As the oldest major party front-runners in American history — even with demanding schedules — they both remain physically capable. Both candidates have recent passing reports from their physicians and partake in healthy living habits — no smoking, no drinking, no hazardous labor,” the Post said. 

The newspaper also cited actuarial tables, stating that both candidates are likely to survive through their second term, and to “retain the cognitive and physical abilities to perform as president,” provided they do not suffer any specific health crisis. 

“I don’t think, unless something dramatic comes out during the campaign, that age will be a major factor,” Steven N. Austad of University of Alabama-Birmingham, told the newspaper. 

“Genetics determines maximum life expectancy and lifestyle determines the actual life expectancy, which is always less,” Pinchas Cohen, dean of the University of Southern California’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, told the Post. 

The experts all seem to predict that neither Biden or Trump is likely to have trouble staying alive through a second term. 

“If you are getting a number like a 25 percent chance of dying, then the true number might actually be 30 percent or 20 percent, but it is significantly bigger than zero,” Andrew John George Cairnes, a mathematics professor at Heriot Watt University in Scotland, told the university. “And ultimately you only get one roll of the dice anyway.”

The story also notes that former presidents have a tendency to live very long. Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush all lived into their 90s, while Jimmy Carter is still alive at age 98, despite entering hospice care back in February. Presidents, current and former, tend to have access to top notch nutrition and health care, and to the best doctors available for the rest of their lives. 

Of course, with Trump and Biden winning the nominations, it will be hard for supporters of each to accuse the others of being too old, without raising questions about their own guy. Which doesn’t mean that they won’t do it anyway. 

The Post story also quotes spokespeople for both candidates, about just how vibrant and virile their guy is. 

“President Trump is running laps around everyone and has exponentially more energy than the entire field combined,” Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said. 

“As President Biden displayed in Helsinki — strengthening our national security instead of undermining it — his experience, drive, and values have rebuilt the alliances the last administration tore apart,” Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement to the newspaper. “Because of those same qualities, President Biden transformed the economic freefall he inherited into the strongest recovery in the world.”

Expertise and Experience: Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

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Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.