How old is too old to be president?

Explainer

Can an American be too old to serve as president?

By Gwen Baumgardner

Joe Biden is the oldest president in U.S. history. While American citizens must be at least 35 years old to be elected president, no upper age limit exists.

GWEN BAUMGARDNER, REPORTER: IS AGE JUST A NUMBER OR CAN YOU BE TOO OLD TO BE LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD?   

AT AGE 78, JOE BIDEN IS THE OLDEST PERSON TO BECOME PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. AND IF HE RUNS AGAIN,  HE WILL BE  EIGHTY TWO YEARS-OLD. 

THERE IS NO AGE CAP. IN FACT, THE LAW PREVENTS IT  WITH THE AGE DISCRIMINATION IN EMPLOYMENT ACT OF 1967.  

ON THE FLIP SIDE YOU CAN BE TOO YOUNG TO BE COMMANDER IN CHIEF. THIRTY FIVE IS THE MINIMUM AGE. 

BUT SOME THINK THERE SHOULD BE AGE LIMITS.  

FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER SAID “IF I WERE JUST 80 YEARS OLD…I DON’T BELIEVE I COULD UNDERTAKE THE DUTIES I EXPERIENCED WHEN I WAS PRESIDENT.” 

GARY SCHMITT AGREES ON CAPS. HE WORKED IN THE WHITE HOUSE FOR FORMER PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN. 

GARY SCHMITT:  “I know for a fact they were, they were conscious of Reagan’s age, and, and making sure that his agenda wasn’t so overwhelming that it that, you know, it would wear him out.” 

GWEN BAUMGARDNER: WHAT DO THE MEDICAL EXPERTS SAY? 

JOE VERGHESE: “I have a father who is ninety and still goes to work.”

GWEN BAUMGARDNER: GERIATRIC NEUROLOGIST JOE VERGHESE SAYS WE BASE OF OUR VIEWS ON AGING FROM THE OLDER PEOPLE IN OUR LIVES.  

JOE VERGHESE: “If both you and your husband’s parents were frail then you would assume that everyone when they hit 70 were frail and you know one step away from the grave but on the other hand if you had people who were aging successfully then you would imagine that everyone had to be like that.”

GWEN BAUMGARDNER: AS THE ADAGE GOES OLDER OFTEN MEANS WISER. 

LIKE THE U.S., MOST COUNTRIES DO NOT HAVE AGE CAPS ON ELECTIONS. IN CHINA, XI JINPING REMOVED TERM LIMITS, WITH PLANS TO CONTINUE RULING INTO HIS SEVENTIES. IN MALAYSIA LAST YEAR, THE FORMER PRIME MINISTER LEFT OFFICE AT AGE NINETY FIVE. 

OTHER COUNTRIES, NOT SO MUCH.  

THERE’S NO DENYING THE TOLL AGE CAN AND WILL TAKE ON ALL OF US.  

PHYSICALLY, AS YOU GET OLDER, YOU NOT ONLY TURN GREY, YOU ALSO LOSE MUSCLE MASS AND STRENGTH, AND GAIN HEARING LOSS AND BALANCE ISSUES.  

MENTALLY, WHAT ABOUT COGNITIVE DECLINE? AGING BRINGS MEMORY LOSS AND SLOWER RESPONSE TIMES. 

VERGHESE: “If you had to think of something very quickly, like a Jeopardy kind of situation where you have to come up and hit the buzzer, yes, you might be a few seconds slower than somebody who’s younger.’’

GWEN BAUMGARDNER: HOW IMPORTANT ARE THOSE FEW SECONDS? THAT’S FOR YOU TO DECIDE. 

BUT ONE THING IS FOR SURE…THE OLDER THE PRESIDENT, THE GREATER IMPORTANCE OF THEIR VP. 

GARY SCHMITT:  “If we’re not going to have an age limit, then then we have to be much more serious about thinking about the candidates for vice president in a way that we haven’t been doing… and whether we would want them to be president.” 

GWEN BAUMGARDNER: PUTTING AN AGE LIMIT ON THE PRESIDENCY WOULD REQUIRE A CHANGE TO THE CONSTITUTION. THE LIKELIHOOD OF THAT HAPPENING IS SLIM, AT LEAST FOR THE MOMENT.  

IN THE SENATE RIGHT NOW, SENIORS RULE THE SCHOOL. HERE’S A LOOK AT THE AGE BREAKDOWN. HALF OF THE SENATORS ARE 65 AND OLDER.   

SO HOW OLD IS TOO OLD TO BE PRESIDENT? LET ME KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW AND BE SURE TO USE THE BIAS METER ON OUR WEBSITE TO RATE THIS STORY. 

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