Biden and Ageism
Ageism is everywhere, including news and politics. Over many news cycles, the issue of President Joe Biden’s age has been front and center in the discussion of his possible run for reelection. We continually hear: He’s too old and feeble, he stumbles on his words, he makes gaffes, he walks slowly, etc. These are the same things we heard when he ran in 2020. Some said the job was too much for someone his age and with his “issues,” but his accomplishments prove otherwise.
The negative comments above made me think of my own increased signs of aging. I am nearing 80 and, yes, it is harder for me to get out of the car without groaning. Sometimes I miss a step when I walk. My words don’t always come quickly. If I am struggling with my own aging process in managing my life, “How can Biden run the country?” (My doubting self whispers in my ear).
Last January, President Biden’s State of the Union address negated those fears. He was robust, funny, and spontaneous, and his words were full of wisdom and experience. Beyond that, his ability to deal with real-time challenges – Republican heckling – was on full display for the world to see.
Ageism in Our Culture
Sadly, ageism has become entrenched in our culture. Rather than focus on strengths and accomplishments, people cling to preconceived notions that someone at an advanced age loses capability when new physical or mental challenges appear. But those of us in our 3rd Act know – or SHOULD know – better.
We know we can continue to work and contribute mightily to society, and there are many more examples of this beyond Joe Biden. Look at Jane Goodall (89) and her energetic and heart-filled work across the planet for animals and climate change. She even has a Masterclass! And Jane Fonda (85) with her lifelong activism and wildly successful seven-season television series “Grace and Frankie,” still getting arrested after all these years. Also Pope Francis (86) who’s the first pope from outside of Europe since the 8th century, the first from the Americas and the leader of 1.3 billion Catholics worldwide. These are just a few of the elders continuing to make a difference. There are countless examples around you in your own life and community.
Perhaps they and President Biden are part of the new “super ager” cohort. These people are being studied by the National Institute of Health (NIH) for their amazing mental capacity well into their 80s and 90s: https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/cognitive-super-agers-defy-typical-age-related-decline-brainpower
As we learn more about these cognitive advancements, we need to shift our perspective on aging. With “Black Lives Matter,” we asked ourselves to be more aware of hidden racism. With the “#MeToo” movement,” we began to address the hidden sexual abuse in our society. Now it’s time to confront internalized and cultural ageism. Address it directly. Push back at it when you see it evidenced in the world. Let Biden’s example spur you on to more in your life, not less.
So don’t look in the mirror and think “I’m too old for this” or “I should step aside,” or “This is for someone younger.” What fearful part of the subconscious makes us think that? It’s time to challenge this negative self-talk that keeps us from our dreams and obscures the positive aging examples being modeled for us.
Joe Biden and others demonstrate what can be accomplished in your 3rd Act. You may not be running for president, but you can step into a meaningful life that you envision for yourself. Remember, we are pioneers in aging because few humans have lived as long as we have. Let’s use these newfound experiences to end ageism within ourselves and in the world.