Think About It: None for the aged

How many of us remember the date our mother or father or brother or long-term partner died? My prediction is that we remember the date or dates we lost someone significant in our lives.

Even though it has been decades, I easily recall the date mom died, the date dad died seven years later and the date my brother died two years following my dad’s death as if they were seared in my memory with a hot branding iron. I know the approximate time. What I do not remember is what day of the week it was except for my brother’s passing on Thanksgiving Eve.

I know well that none of these dates are trivial, at least not to me.

By now, people who follow news on network or cable channels heard the news that President Biden will not be charged for having classified material in his garage that dated back to his days as senator and Vice President.

Robert Hur, special counsel assigned to the case finished his report, complete with photos of torn boxes, says that there was insufficient evidence to charge him, and that Biden had cooperated fully.

Hur went on to contrast the Biden document breech as different from the Trump document breech in the number of documents involved and lack of cooperation by Trump to resolve the issues.

Hur’s report included his impression of Biden’s mental capacity which proved controversial in legal, political, medical, and aging communities. Hur explained that a jury would not find Biden guilty if he was charged because he comes across as a “well-intentioned elderly man” with diminished mental capacity.

Too old to be president?

The political ramifications are enormous since the main concern we are told about Biden’s re-election is his age. He is 81 years old and will be 85 when he leaves the presidency in four years.

A president has never been that old at inauguration or the completion of their term. Trump was the second oldest at 70 and Reagan third at 69 when inaugurated. I look back on U.S. presidents during my 80 years and note the most significant elections were those that signaled a renewal. The new generations: Kennedy (1962), Clinton (1992), Obama (2008). They were young, energetic, conveyed strength and inspired hope. Although older, Reagan conveyed the same spirit along with a sense of humor. We Americans usually like that.

Objective reasoning would tell us that presidents would be older since our life expectancy has increased as pharmaceutical, medical, and surgical care have evolved.

Yet, it feels odd and strange that our president would be so old. In fact, it seems to be deeply depressing to US people in general.

I understand it. We live in a culture that values youth and denies aging.

I am not advocating for the election of old or young men and women to the presidency. Our president should not have to comply with superficial standards of society; rather, he or she should be visionary, able, competent, trustworthy and articulate among the many qualities we need in a leader.

Assessing mental status and competency is fair. The presidency is an enormous responsibility and job. However, such assessment should be evidence-based and not mere conjecture by spectators highly influenced by their own prejudices and ignorance of ageing and, worst case, influenced by a desire to politically damage the person.

The fact that aging prejudices showed up on an official document with broad generalizations around a person’s mental status is an example of the latter and begs for confrontation.

Hur used the example of Biden not remembering “when his son died” as evidence of diminished mental capacity. Apparently, it did not occur to Hur that Biden may not want to talk with him about such a sensitive personal matter or he was trying to move the interview on since it was about the documents.

Biden was angry about Hur’s conclusion. It hit a sensitive painful nerve to be accused of forgetting the day of his son’s death. He said, “I thought (the question) was none of his business.” Everything we know about Biden’s sorrow over his son’s death should tell us to take him at his word.

Finding, or not, the spirit of aging

I knew about our aging prejudice for a long time, enough so that I took on the task of writing a book about aging. Since I worked in programs for the aging, I met many old people with diseases and disabilities.

I did not want to suffer from lack of knowledge, understanding and experience that would limit me in this important phase of my life.

I wanted to understand the natural changes which we will experience no matter what we do. I also wanted to understand the role that attitude, our own and our surrounding culture played in our well-being.

I wanted to give others the information, perspective and choices that help us make the most of our aging in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.

Sadly. I found no real answers to shift our culture of making aging invisible except that we as individuals can live quality lives. After all, we are not alone. There are many old people.

Other cultures, notably tribal cultures, value elders and look to them for wisdom. They honor them. They spend no time picking on communication lapses. I doubt a culture like they would honor any less a man like President Biden who addresses large audiences about extraordinarily important topics because he chose not to talk with a special counsel about the loss of his son. They might even honor his choice. They certainly would honor the wisdom he has gained through a long and fruitful life.

I hate aging prejudice along with all the prejudices that plague us. Too many use prejudice as an excuse to demean others, take away their identity, and turn others against them.

Used that way, it is evil. Such intention and activity should not be tolerated in official documents of the United States.

Bertha Cooper, an award-winning featured columnist with the Sequim Gazette, spent her career years in health care administration, program development and consultation and is the author of the award-winning “Women, We’re Only Old Once.” Cooper and her husband have lived in Sequim more than 25 years. Reach her at