Growing older may not be a disease, but like many diseases, it’s progressive. Not only do we diminish in physical capacity, but in mental acuteness as well, resulting in a lower threshold in processing information.
Aging needn’t be feared per se, however, since scores of elderly enjoy a quality of life many young people can only envy. Take last night’s Democratic debate. Hillary Clinton, who may very well be elected president in the coming year, is 67; her chief rival, Bernie Sanders, 74; Jim Webb, former Virginia senator, 69.
Personally, I found their performance under conditions of surely immense pressure immensely gratifying. I say this because I live in an America that frequently denigrates its older citizenry with “old” often taking on pejorative connotation approximating the “n-word.” If it’s hideous to discriminate on the basis of color, no less so when it comes to your age.
Psychologically, we need more discussion on the subject of aging. Does it confer strengths, in this case, in leadership acumen? I believe it does.
Consider what animal studies might show us; for example, elephants where it’s the matriarch, or oldest elephant, that often leads the herd to a waterhole only she knows about. In short, age often confers the wisdom of experience.
When it comes to being president of the United States, it’s hardly an on-the-job learning experience. Every decision in our more than ever complex world is fraught with consequences, some of them impacting upon our very survival. We need leaders who can take us to the water hole.
Of course, younger leadership may connote creativity, or initiation of new approaches to problem solving; older leadership, a rigidity, or running in place.
In a dangerous world, however, I prefer stability. Unfortunately, the human proclivity is to select on the basis of looks, or youthfulness, rather than functioning. Implanted by evolution to augment progeny, beauty proves a formula few of us can resist. I suspect the birds and the bees know a thing or two about this.
Interestingly, the issue of candidates having changed their positions over time came up. I like Hillary’s answer: “I think all of us have changed positions.”
In short, we evolve, experience conferring wisdom. I call it “seasoning.” The elephant thing again.
Oh, shucks! Missing from the debate was crusty Joe Biden, 72.