“Old age, believe me, is a good and pleasant thing. It is true you are gently shouldered off the stage, but then you are given such a comfortable front stall as spectator.”
This past Sunday, the following headline on Canada’s CBC News site got my attention. “Joe Biden could become the oldest president to seek a 2nd term. Does his age really matter?”
How does one, for example, define the age of a senior citizen? Is it measured by years from birth? A period of human life? Or is it marked by a definitive phase or unit of mental advancement? Or someone of advanced years?
As to the age of President Biden, this coming November, he’ll be 81. Unquestionably, he is a senior citizen, a term that has so many synonyms, most of which I find “downright offensive”, including geriatric, golden-ager, old fogy, old person, old-age pensioner, old-timer, oldster, or pensioner comes to mind.
Now, at the age of 80 Biden has the honour, some might say with invective sarcasm, of joining as the youngest group member of the oldest serving state leaders serving as head of state and/or head of government, a party leader of a one-party state, or a representative of a head of state.
And what a motley group it is! A number of the characters could well fit into the “downright offensive” category:
-Paul Biya. Aged 90. He is a Cameroonian politician and the second longest-ruling president in Africa.
-Mahmoud Abbas. Aged 87. He has been the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) since 11 November 2004, and PNA president since 15 January 2005.
-Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Aged 87 The King of Saudi Arabia, reigning since 2015. The 25th son of Ibn Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia.
-Francis. Aged 86. The Pope, also known as the supreme pontiff, Roman pontiff, or sovereign pontiff, is the bishop of Rome and head of the worldwide Catholic Church.
-Cornelius A Smith. Aged 85. The governor-general of the Bahamas.
-Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah. Aged 85. The emir of Kuwait and the commander of the Kuwait Military Forces.
-Ali Hosseini Khamenei. Aged 83. The second and current supreme leader of Iran. He is the longest-serving head of state in the Middle East.
-Michael D. Higgins. Aged 81. The President of Ireland is the head of state of Ireland and the supreme commander of the Irish Defence Forces.
Recently, one of my friends living in the province of Ontario, because he’s now 80 years young, had to complete a Senior Driver Group Education Session and vision testing requirement before he could renew his driver’s licence. He attended the session together with about 30 others all of a similar age.
He said, what struck him most on observing the group sitting around the table, was he suddenly came around to realize what a shock it was for him to be defined as an octogenarian, no less!
He quoted Kurt Vonnegut’s well-known saying to me: “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.”
Does age really matter?
Youngest serving state leaders
-In the USA, the youngest to become president by election was John F. Kennedy, who was inaugurated at age 43 in 1961.
-In Canada in 1979, the day before his 40th birthday, Joe Clark was sworn in as Canada’s youngest prime minister.
-Justyn Trudeau was 44 in 2015 when he became the second-youngest prime minister in Canadian history after Joe Clark.
-The late Pierre Trudeau, prime minister of Canada, and the father of Justyn Trudeau could well be considered old by today’s standards. He was 49 when he was sworn in.
-Today, Rishi Sunak, the UK’s Prime Minister is 42 years old, making him the youngest person to hold the office of prime minister in modern times.
-Dritan Abazović president of Montenegro is 37.
-Gabriel Boric, president of Chile is 37.
-Sanna Marin, prime minister of Finland is 37.
-Irakli Garibashvili, prime minister of Georgia is 40.
Does age really matter?
Whatever one’s age, I suppose to some extent it does. How one interacts and stimulates communication between generations, as well as how one develops creative questions and answers, is an integral part of especially being a politician.
Paul Quirk, a professor of political science at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, said in the CBC report “Biden carries ‘enormous amounts of experience to his daily job in the White House, stretching back to his time as a senator and vice-president.’”
With that in mind, he predicts that if Biden seeks a second term, “his age will be mentioned adversely from time to time, but I don’t think it’ll be a pivotal factor in the election.”
Populus autem decernere. The people will decide.♦
Credits: Photo- Self; CBC News; Wikipedia; thesaurus.com; brainyquotes.com