As the 2024 presidential election draws near, one of the most prominent issues on voters’ minds is the age of potential contenders. With President Joe Biden at 80 years old and former President Donald Trump at 77, Americans may choose between the oldest-ever president and the second oldest, but what do seniors think of older politicians?
To gain deeper insights into seniors’ views, NPR interviewed several seniors living in western Pennsylvania, a region critical to the upcoming election.
A Desire For Younger Politicians
Most seniors desire a younger generation of leaders. They are less than enthusiastic about the prospect of a Biden-Trump rematch.
The Energy Problem
David Reckless, an 88-year-old resident of Zelienople, Pennsylvania, offers a straightforward perspective on the impact of age, focusing on the problem with “Energy.”
David fondly recalls being “more or less the energy bunny” in his earlier years. However, he acknowledges the reality of aging, which includes “more naps in my day.”
David’s concerns seem to be shared by many, as polls consistently reveal worries about the health and vitality of both candidates.
While Biden’s physician vouches for his excellent health, occasional mishaps like his spring stumble at an Air Force Academy graduation have raised questions about his ability to serve another term.
Seniors frequently draw comparisons between their health and that of the candidates. Cathie Huber, an 80-year-old line dancer, asserts, “I feel at 80, I’m just as sharp as I ever was,” highlighting the importance of mental acuity.
Running the Show
In contrast, Len Zapler, an 85-year-old line dancer, expresses concern about his and Biden’s declining abilities: “My chief worry is, I’m losing it… I wouldn’t want this guy out there running the show.”
Partisan affiliations also strongly influence seniors’ perceptions of candidates’ age and health.
Preston Shimer, an 84-year-old Democrat, believes Biden handles his aging process well: “He’s still coping with his stuttering problem, which impacts his verbal presentation… I think Biden has a far better team.”
However, Rosalie Bablak, an 86-year-old Republican, voices concerns about Biden’s readiness for critical decisions.
“We have someone who sits in the Oval Office who’s going to touch the button if we’re going to have nuclear war. I would like someone who’s more quickly thinking.”
The Call for a New Generation
Regardless of political leanings, many seniors advocate for a fresh generation of politicians.
Susan Hughes, a 77-year-old Republican, says, “I know my capacity, and I think I have pretty good capacity,” however, “I wonder how in the world they could not want to retire.”
Service or Power
Hughes then questioned the motivation behind politicians continuing to serve into their eighties, asking, “Is this about power, or is it about service?”
John Fuller, a 71-year-old independent voter, advises both Biden and Trump “don’t run,” emphasizing concerns about Biden’s health and appreciating the order he brought to government.
Not Good For the Country
Fuller may worry about both candidates’ health, but he said he preferred Biden because “he was on the news every day” and “It’s not good for the country.”
Closing Your Eyes
Ahmad Zaghab, another 71-year-old independent voter, acknowledges the imperfections of both candidates but feels a sense of duty to vote in the upcoming election despite his reservations: “I just close my eyes and do it.”
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