How old is too old when running for the office of the president of the United States?

Insurance companies and the Social Security Administration use what are called “actuarial life tables” to predict life expectancy at a given age, based upon mortality rates for others of that same given age, based on past years. It’s just an average, of course, but a sobering average. Especially when one is getting on in years and uses those tables to guide major life decisions like when to retire, whether or not to adopt another pet, whether or not to dip into a retirement account, and whether or not to take that dream vacation now or put it off for a few more years.

I’m 69 years old. According to the Social Security Administration’s actuarial table, I can expect an average of 19 more years. That’s an average. So, based upon my present age of 69, it could be as much as 38 more years (that would make me 107 years old) or only one year (age 70) or, most likely, something in between. I’ll be content with the average 19 years, thank you. But, of course, there’s no guarantee – it’s only an average. And I’ll need to consider this if I want to adopt another pet or make career or retirement decisions, investment decisions, or any plans or decisions that will impact other people (and the dog and cat) in my life.

Joe Biden is 81 years old. He’s got an average of 7.23 years to go before he dies. Donald Trump is 77 years old and has an average of 9.32 years ahead of him on this earth. Both are counting on another four or five years of life expectancy. And the odds are in their favor, but not overwhelmingly. Yes, they both receive impeccable medical care at a quality far above us mere citizens and should expect a longer life expectancy, but no leader or aspiring leader lives forever. King Tutankhamun tried this unsuccessfully 4,246 years ago. It didn’t work then and hasn’t worked since, although countless people through the centuries have tried.

Leader or peon, wealthy or poor, we’re all going to die. Sorry, but that’s the truth of the matter. We can try all we want to refute this fact, but all studies have arrived at the same remarkable conclusion: 100 out of 100 people die.

I’m not proposing that some arbitrary age limit be imposed on aging candidates for public office – that would be problematic and discriminatory. I am, however, encouraging public officials, especially those at the national level, to consider, and to openly admit to themselves and their constituencies, their own mortality.

I encourage them to face up to their life expectancy when running for office, and perhaps consider if now is the time for mentoring rather than leading, consulting rather than commanding. Dying in office does not benefit your constituency, nor does it enhance your legacy – especially if you are already far past the prime of your life when you assume office. On the other hand, mentoring a new generation of leaders might be your most noble and distinguished calling.

I’ll be President Biden’s age 12 years from now, and Mr. Trump’s age in nine years, God willing. Based on the actuarial tables of my beloved cat and dog, nine or 12 years from now, they will be aging seniors, if still alive, when I’ll be the age of Trump or Biden. Based on my actuarial table, I hope and pray that when that time comes, I’ll have the good sense not to adopt another pet at that age – let alone propose to take on the responsibilities of president of the United States.

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