My own old lady self, the one who has even more trouble with names now than she did when she was not an old lady, feels great empathy for President Biden’s fight to prove he is still fit to hold office. It’s a hard fight. Ageism is loose in the world, and it’s coming to get all of us with wrinkled fists and wrinkled cheeks. If I read one more media report about how worried people are about Biden’s “age,” I’m going to turn into a raging madwoman.

Biden flies halfway across the world, tours the country making speeches on immigration or labor rights or abortion rights, wakes up with and goes to bed with, literally, the world on his shoulders, all while his family is being defamed and his critics are examining him for signs of age, inch by painful inch. But Biden keeps going. Not out of narcissism, I believe, but out of deep commitment to this country.

The New York Times opinion columnist Maureen Dowd recently recommended that Biden acknowledge the shortcomings of his age. She even took a potshot at his Irish roots, characterizing what she saw as stubbornness to stay in office this way: “He should not indulge the Irish chip on his shoulder.”

Brains age. After the age of 40, memory does decline. But there is forgetting and Forgetting. Retrieval failure happens when the memory is not available, not when it has disappeared forever. If I forget your name when I next see you, rest assured, it is not gone forever, nor have I forgotten you. The minute you walk away or kindly remind me of your name, I will remember that I remember. Public perception of a person’s cognitive state is often determined by superficial factors, such as physical presence and verbal fluency, but these aren’t relevant to one’s capacity for emotional regulation, the processing of complex ideas or the accessing of deep knowledge about complex systems.

As an old person, I would add that age contributes the most important characteristic needed at this moment in time: wisdom.

Wisdom is what Biden exuded in his State of the Union address. Listening to him, my spirits rose. He’s in this fight with his heart and soul. His Irish feistiness is in full flower, featuring courage and fierceness, compassion and humor. He communicated a much-needed vision of American democracy as a democracy of caring, one responsive not to wealth and corporations, but to the middle class.

I am in my 80th year. The older I get, the fiercer I feel about the potential power and disruptive influence that we “old” people can and should have on this very moment when both the planet and my generation are running out of time, when actions we take today will determine the history of mankind and all living things for thousands of years to come.

Is there anything more important than speaking up and out right now, than insisting on our earned wisdom and influence? As Mae West once said: “We’ve been things and seen places.” I fear internalized ageism has gotten hold of the minds of many my age and keeps them home, quietly worried but feeling they are “too old” to do anything about the catastrophic forces at work.

I urge these brothers and sisters to join together and keep trying to make a difference.

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