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  • Writer's pictureSimone Ellin

Ageism: Alive and Well

Ageism is making me angry. It shouldn’t be tolerated.

As most of us can agree without reservation: Racism is wrong; so is sexism, antisemitism and ableism. It’s not Ok to be xenophobic, Islamophobic, homophobic, transphobic, fat phobic or misogynistic. But look around. Ageism is all the rage. No one blinks when someone makes an ageist joke. Being old is somehow funny.  Old people are “cute,” old people are “demented” (even when they’re not); old women are “crones,” old men are “dirty” if they still like sex; old people (anyone over 45 or so) should step aside and let young people take over. Well, I’m not ready to roll over and play dead. I’ve still got things to do.

Consider the following:

  1. Joni Mitchell just won her first Grammy Award at age 80.

  2. Warren Buffett is 93 and Berkshire Hathaway is stronger than ever.

  3. At 81, filmmaker Martin Scorsese’s newest film was just nominated for an academy award.

  4. Author and philanthropist James Michener published 12 books after the age of 80.

  5. Supreme Justice John Paul Stevens retired from the court at age 90 and his memoir “The Making of a Justice” was published nine years later.

  6. Jane Fonda, 86, is my 57-year-old partner’s celebrity freebee.

Last but not least, 81-year-old President Joe Biden is running for a second term as president of the United States. The biggest criticism against him? He’s too old.

I’m not immune from the ageism trap. At 61, I’m older than most, but still young enough to harbor negative beliefs about my elders. In fact, until recently, I joined fellow Democrats in wishing that President Joe Biden would drop out of the 2024 presidential race so a younger and I believed, more electable candidate could take his place.

But after Biden’s forceful State of the Union address on March 7, I had a change of heart. During the speech, in which the president listed his administration’s many impressive accomplishments (that unfortunately go unrecognized by both Dems and Republicans), and explained his progressive goals for a second term, I decided that this country would be fortunate to have Joe Biden as our president for the next four years. Is he perfect? No. Do I agree with all of his policies? No. But when I reflect on the full picture, I must conclude that Joe is the best guy for the job. I don’t need to list all of Biden’s accomplishments here. You can find much better sources for Biden’s resume.

My point is that after serving in the U.S. Senate for 36 years -- during which time he was chair or ranking member of the Judiciary Committee for 16 years and chair or ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee for 12 years -- Barak Obama’s vice president for 8 years, and president for almost four years, Biden is not only the most well-prepared candidate in the 2024 election, he is arguably the most well-prepared candidate in the history of our country. So, why are we treating him as if he has no right to seek another term? The answer is plain and simple. It’s because we Americans are ageist.

Before you get all defensive, let’s acknowledge that it’s fair to be concerned about a presidential candidate’s mental status. As a Democrat, I certainly worry about former President Donald Trump’s state of mind. But we now know that recent reports about the president’s declining memory, have been greatly exaggerated and mischaracterized for political reasons. In fact, Biden’s policies and his behavior in relation to actual presidential responsibilities show no evidence that he is out of touch with reality. True, Biden is not a great orator. But that is not a function of his age. He has never been an especially articulate speaker. That said, he does know how to talk to people. It’s one of his most redeeming features.

It’s also understandable that voters are concerned that Biden’s age puts him at increased risk for medical problems during a second presidential term. That’s what vice presidents are for. And while you may be underwhelmed by Kamala Harris’s performance as VP, consider who Trump may choose as a running mate.

It’s no secret that many Democrats aren’t enthusiastic about our candidate, and they may choose to vote against him. But if you choose to oppose Joe Biden, do it after a careful study of his achievements, programs and policies, don’t make it about his age. That’s politically incorrect. 

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