It is early Friday morning in the Netherlands. A few hours ago President Donald Trump was officially elected as a candidate for the Republican party in the presidential elections that will take place on November 3 in the United States. He will, together with Mike Pence, as candidate for the vice-presidency, take on the Democratic Joe Biden, with Kamala Harris as Biden’s “running mate”. It will be extremely exciting andI will follow the battle closely in the coming weeks, and am already looking forward to the first debate between Trump and Biden on September 29th.
One element that plays an important role in this election is age. Again and again, the Republicans insist that Biden is far too old to be president. He is now 77 and he will be 78 (if he wins) when he begins his term as president of the US. Of course, the Republicans have a point. But then honesty demands that they recognize that their Donald also left his youth far behind. He was born on 14 June 1946 and is now 74 years old. If he wins, he will reach the age of 78 years by the end of his second term!
In the United States people look at age in a different way than people do in the Netherlands. We have an official retirement age (currently 66 years and 4 months) and find it normal when people simply retire, or are told to leave their jobs. In the United States the moment people want to stop working is mostly left to their own choice. As a result, many people continue to work well into their seventies, or even considerably longer. (Unfortunately, in “rich America” many people cannot afford to retire earlier).
I can’t deny that I would have liked to continue working for a while, when I had to retire at age 65, and was (I think) mentally and physically able to do so. I would therefore applaud a bit more flexibilityin dealing with the moment when people stop working than we do in the Netherlands. That does not alter the fact that you have to ask yourself whether people at age 78 still should aspire to an incredibly hard job. One would say that among 328 million Americans there must be some suitable younger leaders. By the way, we also have to keep an eye on that aspect when we choose new leaders for the worldwide Adventist Church in 2021. The current president, Ted N.C. Wilson will be 71 when the upcoming church elections take place, and hopefully the question will come up (among a series of other considerations, I hope) whether it is wise to re-elect someone over 70 as the most important leader of the church.
There was a different age issue in the Dutch media last week. Now that the Corona crisis continues and it is feared that a second wave of infections will occur, some are suggesting that the elderly might go into some kind of prolonged light quarantine. After all, they are among the most vulnerable in society, so the argument goes. Young people should be especially careful not to infect grandparents and other older people. If the elderly are willing to withdraw from social life, young people will be able to move and operate more freely. Surely the elderly should be willing to do that for the younger generation.
I can get angry about the fact that the elderly are constantly described as “vulnerable” people. The fact that there was so much mortality in nursing homes was mainly due to how the Corona danger was dealt with in the beginning of the pandemic. Moreover, there are very many elderly people who are vital and much less vulnerable than countless others in other age groups. However, the biggest objection is that we have to do everything we can to prevent a division in society between old and young. A healthy society consists of people of all different ages who can freely interact. Also in the governments and in the boards of organizations (and of the church) there must be a balance between people of different ages.
Whether it is wise to put someone of 78 on the highest post is a reasonable question. But in some cases it might be better to have someone of 78 than of 74.