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Though Valid, Concerns About Biden's Age Highlight Ageism in America

Jessica Johnson on

There has been a lot of focus lately on President Joe Biden's age and whether he is physically fit and mentally adept enough to make a run for the White House again in 2024. Nearing 80 years old, Biden is being viewed as an electoral liability by younger Democrats and harsh critics who feel that he is well past his political prime. His approval numbers are very discouraging to say the least, with a recent Quinnipiac University national poll showing that 66% of Americans disapprove of how Biden is handling the economy. This unfavorable rating comes in spite of some good news in June with 372,000 jobs being added and private-sector employment returning to "pre-pandemic levels," according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Regarding reelection, a July CNN poll revealed that 75% of Democrats and voters who lean Democrat do not want Biden to seek a second term. Of those in this survey who are under 45, only 18% want him on the 2024 ballot.

For Biden, I think age is more of a potent, political weapon against him due to his physical appearance, as he is no longer the spry 60-something he was as vice president during Barack Obama's first term. Also, with a full plate of domestic challenges that include increased gun violence and monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to the ongoing global crisis of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, many feel that all this might be too much to handle for a soon-to-be octogenarian.

While I understand the concerns regarding Biden's age, which are valid considering the rigorous demands of running the country effectively and proficiently, I would never advocate pushing someone out of a position solely due to advanced years unless he or she is no longer fully competent to do the job. Time will tell if Biden can remain up to the task to fulfill his first term, and with so much attention currently being put on his age, I would like to see an expanded conversation regarding ageism in the labor force, an issue that affects Americans over 50. A recent Work & Jobs Series survey published on the AARP website reported that approximately one in six 50-plus adults who were looking for a job or who are currently employed said they were not hired for a position they sought within the last two years due to their age. Around 32% stated they had heard "negative comments" about the age of a fellow older colleague.

I view this primarily as a problem within our culture that does not value the wisdom and seasoned life experiences of older people who wish to remain active professionally as long as they can. I also believe that the career trajectory that we are taught to follow in our culture puts unfair time limits on our worth. Consider a capable senior citizen who is 67 years old, much younger than Biden, who is not hired or forced into retirement but still has a lot to contribute. Being older at this point in my career, I am fortunate to work with colleagues who do not view age as a disadvantage, and I am blessed that my God-given talents in teaching and writing are my livelihood. I am also fortunate that my gifts are what I call Kingdom-based, that is, gifts God uses that He won't retire me from even though I will eventually retire from my job. This gives me comfort in knowing that I still have a great purpose as I age, despite the prevalence of age discrimination in our society.

 

Although Biden is beyond the age where many Americans have already retired, I do not like the age card being used as a ploy against him -- or any other politician -- because I do think it contributes to the bias of ageism. Regarding his health, Biden did get a good report back in January from White House physician Kevin O'Connor, and if Biden does begin to seriously decline mentally this would definitely be obvious to the public as we get closer to 2024. I believe Biden will make the right call regarding his health and cognitive ability, and if he does run for reelection, he already knows the odds he's up against.

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Dr. Jessica A. Johnson is a lecturer in the English department at Ohio State University's Lima campus. Email her at smojc.jj@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JjSmojc. To find out more about Jessica Johnson and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Copyright 2022 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
 

 

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