CU geriatrics expert shares insight as age questions swirl this election cycle

Biden, Trump to hold competing campaign events in Florida as they make final pitch
Posted at 11:17 PM, Mar 06, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-07 08:04:15-05

DENVER — Age has been called into question ahead of the 2024 presidential election. We took those questions to a geriatrics expert at the University of Colorado to see how — or if — a candidate's age can impact their ability.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 78% of respondents, including 71% of Democrats, think President Joe Biden is too old to work in government. Fifty-three percent think former President Donald Trump is too old.

A Quinnipiac poll this month showed 67% of registered voters think Biden is too old to effectively serve another term, while 57% said the same of Trump.

The Feb. 8 special counsel report on Biden's handling of classified documents likely didn't ease the public's concerns.

Special counsel Robert Hurr found that criminal charges were unwarranted but noted instances of Biden's faulty memory, saying the president could not recall "even within several years" when his oldest son died. The report concluded that "at trial, Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory."

Biden called a press conference to angrily refute the report's "bad memory" narrative. But during that same press conference, the president confused the leaders of Mexico and Egypt.

So should the public be concerned that the likely nominees for president are 81-year-old Biden and 77-year-old Trump?

If Biden were to win a second term, he would be the oldest person ever elected president. If Trump were to win, he would be the oldest person ever elected president. Currently, the oldest men ever elected president are Trump and Biden, respectively.

Dr. Cari Levy, head of geriatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said a person's age alone does not tell you their health or cognitive status.

"None," Levy said when asked what age is considered old. "You can't give it a great definition. There are 90-year-olds who are active, engaged, rockin' and rollin'. And there are 50-year-olds who are not."

Levy said it's not about lifespan, but health span — how healthy you are.

"There is no number. I can think of a 50-year-old who has a chronologic age of 80 and a physiological age of 80. And I can think of an 80-year-old who has a chronologic age of 80 and a physiological age of 50. There is absolutely no age," Levy emphasized.

What about the gaffes? Biden confused the leaders of Mexico and Egypt, while in January, Trump appeared to confuse Nikki Haley with Nancy Pelosi. Should this concern voters? Not necessarily, said Levy.

"It's not one moment in time. We all have those moments in time, and we tend to have those moments when we're anxious, when we're under stress," said Levy.

None is this is to persuade or dissuade you in this election but to show that experts say age doesn't necessarily line up with stereotypes.

"The longer you've lived, the healthier you've been. The fact that you're 80 means a lot of good things have happened before 80," Levy said.

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