The Age Factor

My friend Millie is quite a bit older than I – in fact, she’s old enough to be my mother.  Somehow, though, I always think of her as a contemporary.  She’s stylish, fit, active in all aspects of life, and she keeps a schedule that makes me tired just thinking about it!

Millie is one of my musical mentors…she taught me everything I know about playing handbells, shepherded my acceptance into Classical Bells, encouraged me to do all the kinds of things I didn’t think were possible.  We’ve traveled together, lived together, shared lots of laughs over hot coffee in the morning and glasses of wine in the evening.

Although I no longer perform with Classical Bells, Millie and I are stand partners in our church bell choir, a group she herself directed for many years (played in and directed at the same time, I might add, and that’s no mean feat!)

Last Sunday we played in church for the first time this year, and I was forced to accept something I’ve been noticing for a while.

She’s not as sharp as she used to be.

Oh, she’s fine in rehearsal, but when the pressure of performance time hits, and she gets a little flustered, things go wrong.  She loses her place, or picks up the wrong bell, and then she gets more flustered and perhaps turns two pages.  And then, it’s pretty hard to recover. 

Now you’d never guess it to look at her, or listen to her speak, but my friend Millie is 72 years old.  And when you reach that age, it’s pretty inevitable that the brain synapses aren’t going to fire as rapidly as they once did, that change is going to be a bit harder to handle, that stress is going to take a bigger toll than it once did.

So, why am I telling you all these things about my best friend, whom I love so dearly?

Because the man who could be President of this country is also 72 years old.  Should he be elected, in the ensuing four years he will face unparalleled stresses on his mind and body.  People aren’t talking a lot about the age factor in this election, but they should be.  A man that age, particularly one who has already suffered some pretty significant health problems, has absolutely no business running a country, especially one in huge crisis.

When my friend is pressured, gets flustered, and loses her place, it’s not a big deal.

But if it happens to the leader of the free world, it’s a very big deal indeed.

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10 thoughts on “The Age Factor

  1. I had a conservative friend say she would not for her party’s candidate. She said he has to have mental issues from being a tortured prisoner of war. I had not even gone there. I thought they did not focus on age due to the PC factor. Many voters are older. Makes you think though.

  2. I agree. It’s very weird and surreal to watch someone go through the inevitable changes that come with age. You feel for them but you just know that they aren’t capable doing things how they used to.
    So, imagine this happening to the person that might become the leader of our country? I’m sorry but, his time came and went.

  3. You’ve brought out an interesting point that the media seems to be staying away from!

    Look at Ronald Regan – we learned later that his Alzheimer’s began to surface while he was still in office. Scary!

  4. You have a very good point. I’ve said from the beginning of this presidential campaign: no old men. It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle they’re on, old is as old does. And these are times for new thinking.

  5. Brilliant post, Becca. That’s an extremely important point – sad, but true. And not only is this man 72, but he’s already had enormous stresses on both his mind and body through both his POW experience and his bouts with cancer.

    BTW… I’m hosting a wonderful author on Monday and doing a book give away – please stop by, if you can!

  6. I watched him on Meet The Press. He attempted to name five Secretaries of State who supported him. He could only recall four. He couldn’t remember George Shultz. I felt bad for him, but it was a telling moment. I knew that the name would pop into his mind in a few seconds, and I knew he would say it the moment it did. How do I know this? Because it happens to me all the time. Short term memory loss. I hate it, but I’m not the leader of the free world. The clip is on youtube.

  7. I didn’t realize that McCain was 72 until recently. The only people in the media who are mentioning his age are the comedians. Now I understand a little better all the hesitation about and focus on Sarah Palin. The expression “heartbeat away from the presidency” is much more meaningful when the president is 72.

  8. McCain was a little old to be running for president, but we can’t judge everyone solely by their age. While your friend, at 72, isn’t as sharp as she used to be, I’ve known people much older who remain sharp as a tack. My concern while reading this is not about McCain’s age, but more for the fact that your friend seems to be declining and at some point in the future you will lose your mentor. This is a special type of friendship and I hope the remaining time will be filled with love and things that make great memories.

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