Age is just a number. For many Americans, it’s a big number. (Self included.) And we are getting disturbing reminders about what that means.
California Democrat Sen. Diane Feinstein recently passed away at the age of 90. She had been infirm for some time and many in the media had called for her to step down. (Just like they did for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before she died at the age of 87.) Yet Feinstein voted in the Senate the day before her passing.
Feinstein was one of many top American leaders far beyond the age to qualify for Social Security. The median age for U.S. senators when Congress started this year was roughly 65 years old – three years past the Social Security minimum. The House is a bit younger, a median age of nearly 58. Media outlets have been using the term “gerontocracy” or a society governed by older people.
Leftist Teen Vogue ran with the headline, “What Is a Gerontocracy? A Government Ruled by the Elderly.” The New Yorker declared, “The Washington Gerontocracy” with a cover that showed President Joe Biden, former president Donald Trump, former House speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell all clumped together, racing on walkers.
Slate asked, “Are America’s Leaders Too Old?” Shockingly for Slate, it’s a legitimate question. McConnell is 81 and twice recently has frozen while speaking in front of the public. If Methusaleh were alive in America today, he’d be in the Senate.
Then there’s Biden who is a barely walking and talking advertisement for retirement. He forgets things, makes up things, lies constantly, stumbles on what he says or just plain stumbles – across the stage, up stairs. You name it.
Axios reported that this is a huge concern for the White House since 77 percent of Americans don’t believe he is up to the job. “President Biden and his campaign are working on a critical project for his re-election bid: Make sure he doesn’t trip.”
Wow, I wish I had made that up. I didn’t. Literally face planting – that’s Election 2024 in a nutshell. Forget running for president. The best Biden can hope for is doddering.
The 80-year-old president is widely viewed as too old. He turns 81 on November 20. AP reported a poll that “fully 77 percent said Biden is too old to be effective for four more years. Not only do 89 percent of Republicans say that, so do 69 percent of Democrats.” If he’s re-elected, he will turn 86 before the end of his second term.
The Democrat solution to the numbers problem involves physical therapy and, well, I will let Axios explain: “Since his stumble in June, he has been wearing tennis shoes more often to avoid slipping — and using the short stairs on Air Force One, entering the plane on a lower deck than before.”
Yep, don’t let him walk far and make sure he wears sensible shoes. We are a nation led by the ghost of Tim Conway.
Being fair, former president Donald Trump, Biden’s potential opponent, turned 77 in June. And 50 percent of those polled think he’s too old as well. He just has more energy.
Americans have embraced their own golden years, at least. Look around for a pickleball tournament near you. The rapidly growing sport is a low-impact combo of tennis, badminton and ping-pong, especially popular with the senior set.
Hollywood has embraced them as well. The young stars of not-so-long-ago turn 50 this year and get their first AARP mailing (“empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age”). That includes model Tyra Banks, actresses Neve Campbell and Juliette Lewis, and actor Jim Parsons.
And, of course, Hollywood had to capitalize on our collective graying with the “Golden Bachelor.” The show follows the dating antics of “Gerry Turner, a charming 72-year-old patriarch from Indiana.” The seasons begins with him putting on a tuxedo and a hearing aid. (Of course, he plays pickleball.) “I’m Gerry. Tonight is the first day of the rest of my life.”
The first episode showed the touching side of senior loneliness. Gerry lost his wife of 43 years just after they built their dream home. Early on, we see his understandable tears. The dates had their own sad stories of widowhood and divorce.
Like all such shows, we then meet the potential dates, who range in age from 60-75. Leslie the fitness instructor shows up with a walker and in dowdy clothes, both of which she immediately throws away to reveal a far skimpier outfit and tons of energy. When she was younger, she dated Prince.
Theresa, 70, introduces herself with the line, “I have a birthday tonight, so I thought why not come in my birthday suit” as she undoes her outfit … to reveal another outfit beneath.
The Washington Post described it as, “The boomer women of ‘The Golden Bachelor’ are ready for some ‘me’ time.” Vanity Fair said, the “Premiere Is Horny and Heartfelt.” LA Times columnist Steve Lopez quoted his own wife describing the women as, “dripping with desperation.” Which, while true, is a bit more understandable since, unlike Steve’s wife, they are alone.
They were all there because America is getting older, but none of them wanted to be put on a shelf or in a home. As a nation, we have aged, but our youth-oriented culture is about to find out how to navigate that change – in politics and the rest of our lives. To paraphrase a commercial from yesteryear, we’re not getting older, we’re getting better. At least, we better hope so.