Dianne Feinstein is 88, as is Chuck Grassley. Mitch McConnell is 80. Nancy Pelosi 82. The president 79. The Donald and I don’t share much in common, just our age. We are each looking forward to our 76 birthday within the next few months.
Many seniors have weathered the years quite well. But without exception, decreased endurance, memory degradation, physical health concerns and general cognitive decline, are part of our balancing acts. Like cars, refrigerators and 10--year-old computers, age takes a toll on function. All of us are dealing with built-in obsolescence.
We of the senior generation try to hold on to our skills and abilities. Eventually, we begin supplementing physical deficits with stronger trifocals, hearing aids, canes, walkers, pacemakers and other assorted devices. Who among our cohort does not own a blood pressure monitor?
Compensating for failing cognitive agility is more challenging. It is sad to follow Sen. Feinstein’s unraveling, as reported by The San Francisco Chronicle. Sad, and as covered by the press, unusually forthright.
Generally, when I watch our wise elders on television, I find myself impressed with the appearances they make. But I have certain suspicions about what I’m witnessing. These doubts come from personal experience. As a young man, I tried to look older, more mature. As a senior, I attempt to look and act as youthful as credulity permits. I believe the expression is, I don’t let the old man in. I do reasonably well with this deception, however, deep down I must acknowledge my charade. I’m putting my best foot forward, but that’s the foot with the gout.
Are aging politicians doing what I am doing — portraying nimble mindedness? Not to shortchange the benefits of this duplicitous charade. My thinking, which is not as facile as it once was, improves during my impersonation of sharp-wittedness. The magic works for about 20 minutes. Thirty if I’m trying extra hard to impress those who may have reason to believe I’m no longer capable of driving, living independently, monitoring my own health or making wise life decisions.
I’m not an ageist. As far as I’m concerned, Elton John can keep performing until he’s 110. But it is one thing to stick to one’s repertoire and routines, to function where the patterns and places are ingrained — in our minds, in our muscle memory, in our souls. Comfortably ensconced, we base our reactions on the storehouse of knowledge that we’ve developed over time.
It is quite another to deal with wide ranging, ever developing prospects, facts, crises, details, issues, pressures and then some, that are hurled nonstop at our leadership, at those who direct high-end government and are charged with helping humankind to navigate.
If Elton misses a note, his fans will forgive him. If leaders fail to keep up with the whirlwind of national and international events, the future may not be so tolerant.
Mandatory retirement age? Probably not. But solid, well educated, mature, open-minded, selfless, humble, worldly, caring, energetic, responsible young adults, please apply here. Before long, you’ll be taking the field.