Categorized | Features, Pushback

Ageist Media? Introducing Our Very Old Next President


Our culture is acutely ageist. We denounce racism and sexism, yet openly accept ageism.

By Al Norman

Shortly after Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 70, dropped out of the Democratic Presidential primaries, the British newspaper The Guardian published an opinion piece by an American columnist who wrote: “The last serious female presidential candidate has now dropped out, and what was once a historically diverse field has narrowed down to two very old white men.”

The Guardian columnist, who complained that “women’s lives are still constrained and narrowed by sexism,” had no qualms about using ageism to constrain and narrow the candidacies of Joe Biden, 77, and Bernie Sanders, 78. She assailed Sanders for his “advanced age” and “practiced cantankerousness.”

The alignment of Donald Trump,73, alongside Biden and Sanders in the political arena has brought out all the ageist canards that lie just below the veneer of American politics. The media has depicted Donald Trump as mentally unstable and psychologically unit for office. “If Donald Trump were your father, you would run, not walk, to a neurologist for an evaluation of his cognitive health,” a psychologist, wrote in a USA Today op-ed.

Social Security, ageistA Buzzfeed column described Sanders as “the guy who admits he can be grumpy and ‘nasty’ and a ‘real son of a bitch.’” A profile piece in Time Magazine, presented Sanders as a person who “was, even as a young man, an old man. Now, nearly a half-century later, he is an old man who enraptures the young… a man who is, depending on whom you ask, a person of great empathy or a gruff curmudgeon.”

Biden has been afflicted by ageist innuendos of senility. According to The Daily Beast, “Biden critics pushed the idea that the campaign was putting him out of sight in order to hide evidence of his supposed cognitive decline.” 2016 Green Party candidate Jill Stein Tweeted that Biden’s “biggest risk is his obvious cognitive decline.” And President Trump Tweeted: “I will protect your Social Security and Medicare … Sleepy Joe Biden will destroy both in very short order, and he won’t even know he’s doing it!

Our culture is acutely ageist. We denounce racism and sexism, yet openly accept ageism.

“Why do such elderly people run America?” was the lead headline in an Atlantic Magazine story in March, 2020. “Sanders is too old. So is Biden. Trump too,” read the subhead. “In January 2021, the three people most likely to be the next president — Biden, Sanders, and the incumbent, Donald Trump — would each be the oldest president to ever give an inaugural address in American history … three candidates divided by ideology, but united in dotage.”

Politico reported in December of 2019 that according to Biden’s physician, “Vice President Biden is a healthy, vigorous, 77-year-old male, who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency. After Sanders had a heart attack in October, 2019, his cardiologist attested that “Should [Sanders] be elected, I am confident he has the mental and physical stamina to fully undertake the rigors of the presidency.”

One out of every 4 American Presidents inaugurated has been age 60 or older — half of those have taken office since Harry Truman, who was 60 when he entered the White House. Reagan was 69, Trump was 70. A writer at Politico describes America as a “wheezy gerontocracy” in which “Our leaders, our electorate and our hallowed system of government itself are extremely old.”

The flat assertion is that these “very old” candidates are cognitively impaired. Yet research on the neurobiology of aging has shown that “some aspects of age-related cognitive decline begin in healthy educated adults when they are in their 20s and 30s … age-related cognitive decline begins relatively early in adulthood, and certainly before age 60 in healthy educated adults.”

“Power concentrated in the hands of old people who are also rich will predictably lead to policies that benefit the old and the rich, at the expense of the less privileged,” The Atlantic warns. “If government of the elderly, by the elderly, and for the elderly will not perish from the Earth, the rest of us might suffer instead.”

Our culture is acutely ageist. We denounce racism and sexism, yet openly accept ageism. Young voters have embraced Bernie Sanders for his platform, not his alleged dotage. Yet the “very old,” we are told, are “out of touch with their time,” just at a time when we most need to examine their policies and their vision — not their birthdate.

Al Norman served for 32 years as the executive director of a statewide home care network in Massachusetts He can be reached at: His most recent book is RAVINGS: American Wild Talk.


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