The idea of how old a candidate should be when running for president became a topic of concern when presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, 78, was sent to the hospital for chest pains. He suffered a heart attack and received two stents to open a blocked artery. To many, this reaffirmed a fear of having older white men run for the presidency and welcomed a new generation to take the lead. For others, this is just another -ism to add to the debate: ageism.

Age is just a number. Using someone’s age to define their entire well-being and character is just as judgmental as sexism. Age should not be a significant factor in whether someone is suited to be president. 

The Los Angeles Times released the headline “‘Elizabeth Warren, 70, flaunts her fitness as Democratic candidates’ health becomes a debate issue” after news broke over Sanders’ health scare. They highlighted Warren’s ability to run up the stage and stay for hundreds of selfies. It is remarkable stamina for a woman running not only to the stage but running for president at 70 – only eight years younger than Sanders and six years younger than former Vice President Joe Biden. Warren’s adrenaline rush sustaining her stamina on stage is apparently enough to convince voters that she’s the right candidate for the job.

Medicine has made significant advances over the years, resulting in extended human life expectancy and greater overall health; naturally, this means our pool of potential presidential candidates has also been getting older as well. Voters should focus on a candidate’s performance and cognitive skills during debates to determine whether they are fit for the presidency.  

“Maybe voters understand that we now have an older population better able to work longer than ever. And that older Americans have gotten much healthier, on average, than in the past,” wrote Next Avenue Contributors  Cal J. Halvorsen and Michael A. Smyer on Forbes. “Fewer older adults report they have fair or poor health than a couple of decades ago.”

Maybe stamina for president can also be defined as Sanders’s strength while suffering blocked arteries and his resilience after his heart attack. His blocked arteries didn’t slow him while he was traveling state to state for events. Two stents aren’t stopping him from continuing his campaign. 

Age and a single health scare is not a  convincing argument to dissuade prominent people from endorsing Sanders, either. On Oct. 22, the Sanders campaign released an updated list of major endorsements coming from California on their website. Age did not hinder the strong support his campaign is receiving. 

“The yardstick gets moved every decade because the country is aging and medical care becomes better,” said Dr. Mark Lachs, co-chief of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian, on The New York Times. “Age should not be a disqualification for the presidency.”

Age is a number that does not tell the whole story. A candidate’s goals and voter concerns should ultimately be the guiding force for the decision, not the amount of wrinkles they possess.

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