“What has prompted this question of what I have to look forward to is all of the controversy about the age of the two likely presidential candidates who are my contemporaries.”
So I’m 80. Now what?
Birthdays have a way of sneaking up on me. I tend to forget how old I am until something brings it to my attention…like a card from an old friend checking to see if I’m still alive. I’ll probably drop skydiving from my bucket list and not continue my long-time hobby of scuba diving. But in general, my life doesn’t feel much different than it did a decade or so ago. Or maybe I’ve just forgotten.
I climbed a volcano in Iceland last year and trained a new puppy. I’m taking an online class in Philosophy. So I feel like I’m still running on most cylinders. What has prompted this question of what I have to look forward to is all of the controversy about the age of the two likely presidential candidates who are my contemporaries. This brought me to looking at some information on life expectancy for 80-year-olds.
Women my age live on average for 9 years 8 months more. Men, always the weaker sex, can expect an additional 8 years. 2 months. Of course an average is not a prediction. There are many variables that affect life expectancy for an individual. Genetics pays a role. Lifestyle plays a bigger role; an active, engaged 80-year-old has a much better chance of exceeding the age in a chart than one who is sedentary, has poor nutrition, and has few social contacts. But living longer doesn’t sound so good if it goes along with chronic disease or (shudder) dementia. The good news is that the older you are without dementia, your chances of suffering from it in the future are reduced. And the proportion of older people having dementia is decreasing; 13 % of. adults over 70 had dementia in 2011 while 10% had it in 2019. The share of older adults with this condition is dropping from 1%-2.5% per year (PRB Fact Sheet, 2021). That makes me feel better.
What does this mean when considering the leading candidates for the presidency? Going by the life expectancy data, both men are likely to live out a four-year term. Looking at their lifestyles, I would bet that President Biden has the greater chance. We know he exercises regularly and has a healthy diet. He has ready medical care and advice that he follows. He has many friends and a loving family that provide social support. He maintains a positive outlook and a sense of humor. All of these characteristics are life sustaining.
The former president, on the other hand has a notoriously bad diet, moves mostly from his golf cart to the tee, believes in quack medicine and has an explosive temper which must affect his blood pressure. His acquaintances say whatever he wants to hear, but how often does he wonder if he can trust them?
President Biden sometimes seems to have memory lapses as he searches for a word. Not many people over 50 have never experienced this and we don’t have the critical eyes of millions on us waiting for a gaffe. As a speech pathologist, I also see some of these pauses as successful strategies for dealing with his stutter. Can we give him a break for that?
Those who discount President Biden because of his age should consider carefully the advantages of age and experience as well as possible deficits. I find that I more often draw a blank on a crossword puzzle than I used to. But with experience I also have learned a lot of new words. Did you know that thebe is a moon of Jupiter? Oh, and I just realized that I’m 81. I’ve gained another month of life expectancy!