As a 76-year-old, let me say: Joe Biden is too old to run again | Robert Reich

At 79, Joe Biden is the oldest president in American history. Concerns about his age top the list of why Democratic voters want the party to find an alternative for 2024.

I don’t think this reflects an “anti-age” prejudice against those who have reached such crushing heights, but rather an understanding that people wither away in their late 70’s and 80’s.

I speak with some authority. I am now a lively 76 – light years younger than our President. I feel fit, I swing, dance and salsa and I can do 20 push ups in a row. Still I admit a certain loss, shall we say hiss.

Joe Biden could easily make it to 86 if he completed his second term. After all, it is now considered somewhat disappointing when a person dies before the age of 85. Three hundred and ten is the life expectancy given in the Bible. Modern technology and Big Pharma add at least a decade and a half. “After 80 it’s gravy,” my dad used to say.

Joe will be on the threshold of the gravy train.

where will it end There is only one way. I read the obituary pages with increasing interest and write down “Older than me” or “Younger than me”.

Most of the time I forget my age. The other day after lunch with some of my graduate students, I caught our reflection in a shop window and wondered for a moment what the little old man in our midst could be.

Death is not the worrying thing about Biden’s second term. It’s the diminishing abilities that come with age.

When I meet up with old friends, our first ritual is an “organ recital” – how’s your back? Heart? Hips? Eyesight? Listen? Prostate? Hemorrhoids? The recital can take up (and ruin) an entire lunch.

The question my friends and I jokingly (and savagely) asked ourselves in college—“got a lot?”—now relates not to sex, but to sleep. I don’t know anyone over 75 who sleeps through the night.

When he was president, Bill Clinton prided himself on only getting about four hours. But he was in his forties at the time. (I also remember cabinet meetings where he nodded off.) How is Biden doing?

My memory for names is terrible. I once asked Ted Kennedy how he remembers names and he advised if a man is over 50 to just ask, “How’s your back?” and he’ll think you know him.

I often can’t remember where I put my wallet and keys. Certain proper names have disappeared altogether. Even when rediscovered, they have a devilish way of disappearing again.

Biden’s intelligence detail can worry about his wallet, and he has a teleprompter for wayward nouns, but I’m sure he’s seeing some diminution in the memory department.

I no longer have a great desire to travel and, like Philip Larkin, I would like to visit China on the condition that I could return home that night. Air Force One makes this possible under most circumstances. It also has a premium bedroom and bathroom, so I don’t expect Biden’s travels to be overly strenuous.

I’ve been told that after the age of 60 you lose half an inch in height every five years. That doesn’t seem like a problem for Biden, but it does pose a challenge for me considering I didn’t quite make it to five feet at my apex. If I live as long as my father, maybe I’ll disappear.

Another reduction I’ve noticed is tact. I recently threw the finger at a driver who recklessly overtook me. Nowadays, even giving the finger to a stranger is a reckless act.

I also notice less patience, perhaps due to an unconscious “use until” timer now clicking away. I’m less tolerant of long lines, automated phone menus, and Republicans.

How the heck does Biden keep tact or patience when dealing with Joe Manchin?

Newspaper style sections tell us that the 70’s are the new 50’s. Septuagenarians are supposed to be fit and alert, move like crazy, have great sex and party till dawn.

Garbage. Inevitably things start to fall apart. My aunt, who lived well into her ’90s, told me, “Getting old isn’t for wimps.” Toward the end, she repeated that phrase every two to three minutes.

I remain optimistic — notwithstanding the riotous Republican Party, the ravages of climate change, near-record-breaking inequality, possible nuclear war, and a persistent pandemic — especially because I still spend most days with people in their 20s whose hiss lifts my spirits. Maybe Biden will too.

But I’m feeling more and more beside myself. I make videos on TikTok and Snapchat, but when my students refer to Ariana Grande or Selena Gomez or Jared Leto, I have no idea who they’re talking about (and honestly I don’t care either).

And I find myself using words — “therefore,” “extremely,” “therefore,” “tony,” “brilliant” — that my younger colleagues find charmingly old-fashioned. When I refer to “Rose Marie Woods” or “Jackie Robinson” or “Ed Sullivan” or “Mary Jo Kopechne” they get confused.

The culture has changed in many ways. By the time I was 17, I could walk into a drugstore and confidently ask for a pack of Luckies and nervously whisper a request for condoms. Now it’s the other way around. (I quit smoking a long time ago.)

Santayana said old people have premonitions about the future because they cannot imagine a good world without themselves. I do not share this view. On the contrary, I think my generation — including Bill and Hillary, George W., Trump, Newt Gingrich, Clarence Thomas, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Biden — royally screwed it up. The world will probably be better without us.

Joe, please don’t run away.

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