How Old Is Too Old for Our Presidents?

By Catherine Fleischhut

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Age affects the ability of presidents in office. It’s an unavoidable truth and has been a current concern of Joe Biden running for president, as well as Donald Trump’s continued presidency. Questions arise about what age is too old for a president and whether an age limit should even be placed on presidential candidates.

Age, proven by years of known statistics and data and just from the people within our families, changes our body cognitively and physically every single day. With age also comes greater health risks. As we age, our brains slowly shrink down from the size it used to be in our 20s. According to a Harvard Medical School article, the myelin sheaths that surround our neurons wear down, causing slower processing between those neurons. Our immune systems get weaker, meaning illnesses are easier at killing the older population. We see this with the coronavirus right now, and the scary reality that our current president Donald Trump, aged 74, caught COVID-19. Thus, it’s easy to see the older a president and/or candidate gets, the worse their cognitive and physical functions get, and the less capable they would be at leading our country.

It’s often argued though that the older you become, the wiser/more experienced you become. Between a 35-year-old candidate and a 55-year-old candidate, the 60-year-old has had a staggering 20 years’ worth of more experience with life; it’s nothing to blink over. There was even a study conducted by S. Jay Olshanssky, a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, that proved the presidents have typically lived a longer life than the average American male (those who died of natural causes at least). This was deduced to be because of the better health care access they have.

While it stands true that experience is valuable, but you have to question yourself when one of them is in their seventies. WebMD reported that your heart’s walls are thicker, thus causing heart ‘glitches’ or complications. This is typically why those who are older need pacemakers to control their hearts. Again, according to a Harvard studied article, Alzheimer’s disease is a terrible, uncurable disease that comes with a deteriorating brain. Your bones and joints are weaker and become easier to break or cause pain. There are simply too many complications that come with those 60 or older. As for the presidents living longer than average, this can easily be linked to their position of power and wealth. Doctors are constantly at the ready to provide any sort of health care needed by the president; however, doctors cannot prevent the effects of aging. Deterioration is slowly happening to us the older we get whether we like it or not, and whether we have the best healthcare possible.

There should be some standard of age restriction on presidential races dependent on when the health and cognitive risks of that age become far too much for someone to run our country at full capacity. The bodily stresses of being president certainly wouldn’t help either, so it would probably be better to plan for peaceful retirement instead.

Catherine Fleischhut is a student in an honors “Campaigns, Candidates and Current Elections” course at St. Bonaventure University.

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