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Presidential Race and Ageism: Unveiling Truths About Aging

  • Examining the negative attention on President Biden’s age
  • The definition and awareness of ageism
  • The importance of evaluating a candidate’s abilities rather than age
  • The cognitive changes that come with aging
  • The role of culture in shaping attitudes towards aging
  • The connection between ageism and ableism
  • The need for interdependence and collaboration in leadership

Introduction

President Biden’s age, 81, has become a topic of constant scrutiny and negativity in the media. From comedy sketches on Saturday Night Live to articles in prominent publications, ageism has become more prevalent in discussions surrounding the president. The World Health Organization defines ageism as the stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination based on age. However, this increased attention on ageism is also a sign of progress and awareness.

The Definition and Awareness of Ageism

Activist Ashton Applewhite, author of “This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism,” praises the growing attention on ageism in news stories. Just a year ago, this topic would not have received as much recognition. The first step in addressing ageism is creating awareness and understanding its impact on individuals and society as a whole. Age is a part of our identity, but attributing value to age is ageist, whether it is negative or positive.

Evaluating a Candidate’s Abilities

While it is legitimate to be concerned about a candidate’s capabilities, it is essential to focus on their cognition, intelligence, memory, decision-making, and stamina, regardless of age. These qualities are vital in any candidate, regardless of their age. Dismissing a candidate based on age is as unacceptable as doing so based on gender or race. By shifting the focus from age to abilities, we can ensure that the most qualified individuals are chosen for public office.

The Cognitive Changes that Come with Aging

Aging does bring changes to cognitive abilities, such as executive functioning, memory, and information processing speed. However, it is important to note that these abilities vary greatly among older adults, just as they do among individuals of all ages. Additionally, aging also brings positive cognitive changes, such as a wider worldview and the ability to integrate information. Older adults can bring valuable experience and wisdom to decision-making processes.

The Role of Culture in Shaping Attitudes Towards Aging

Attitudes towards aging greatly influence health and cognition. Negative beliefs about aging, often specific to American and Western societies, can contribute to health problems that are mistakenly attributed solely to aging. Research has shown that cultures that value older people and appreciate their perspective have a higher number of individuals living into their 90s and 100s with minimal physical or mental deterioration. Changing ageist beliefs can lead to longer and healthier lives.

The Connection Between Ageism and Ableism

Ageism and ableism are often intertwined. The conflation of ageism and ableism can be seen in the New Yorker cover depicting political leaders using walkers. This portrayal raises the question of whether individuals with mobility aids would be disqualified from political office. The fear of disability leads many politicians and individuals to hide any signs of needing help, perpetuating the harmful myth of rugged individualism. In reality, we are all interdependent and should not be ashamed to ask for assistance when needed.

The Need for Interdependence and Collaboration in Leadership

Leadership should not be defined by individualism but rather by intelligence and humility in seeking the best information and support for decision-making. Collaborative decision-making, while possibly slower, is infused with wisdom. As many individuals will reach President Biden’s age, it is crucial that communities and families care for each other and treat older adults with respect. By addressing ageism and embracing interdependence, we can create a society that values individuals at every stage of life.

Conclusion

The negative attention on President Biden’s age highlights the prevalence of ageism in society. However, it also signifies a growing awareness of this issue. It is crucial to evaluate candidates based on their abilities rather than their age. Aging brings both challenges and positive cognitive changes, and culture plays a significant role in shaping attitudes towards aging. Ageism and ableism are interconnected, and embracing interdependence and collaboration in leadership can lead to wiser decision-making. By addressing ageism, we can create a society that values individuals of all ages.

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