At what Age do Elected Officials become too Old to Serve?

At the age of 90, Paul Biya is the oldest politician currently serving a term. Photo Credit: Kevin Dietsch

This story was originally published in the GenZeal feature of LNP on Sunday, March 3, 2024

By Isabella Torre’s ’24

These days, it seems like the only idea Republicans and Democrats can agree on is that there should be an age limit for elected officials.

Over the past year, there has been a lot of discussion about how age can affect mental and physical health.

Last July, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, then 81, froze on national television during a press conference. Amid widespread alarm, the Pew Research Center noted that McConnell “has faced a series of recent health scares.”

Then, last September, California Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein died at age 90 while still serving in Congress.

Americans need leaders who can deliver promising leadership and guidance. How can they provide good leadership when they cannot relate to the needs of the majority of the country?

A 2023 article from the Close Up Foundation, a nonprofit civic education organization, states: “According to a recent CBS News/YouGov poll, 76 percent of Americans either strongly support or somewhat support an age limit on elected officials. … According to an Axios breakdown of the polling data, many respondents felt that the rigors of the job of president are too demanding for someone over 75, and 80 percent of respondents feared that an elected official over the age of 80 would be out of touch with the times.”

Maxwell Frost is the youngest Politician currently serving a term at the age of 26. Photo Credit: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Image

It is important to have impressive cognitive ability when in charge of a country. Setting an age limit for elected officials in our government would better allow a new generation to represent itself.

Many members of Generation Z are old enough to be participating in government and are interested in serving their country. Young people are our future. Why not let them get started now?

An August 2022 poll by YouGov and CBS found that 47% of Americans believe that having young people in office would make politics better. They also believe politics would be improved by electing more women and members of racial minorities.

“You used to serve in your prime and then pass the baton to the next generation, and I think this generation has not really been as willing to do that,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said last summer in an interview with Megyn Kelly. DeSantis was a 2024 Republican presidential candidate before dropping out of the race due to low support.

Many of the same people have been serving in office since before I was born in 2006. Since then, the American people have experienced an economic crisis, a pandemic and many other world-changing crises. How does one keep up with all the changes that occur in 50 years?

The results of the 2023 CBS News/YouGov survey, as summarized by Axios, found that “78% ‘mostly agree’ with the statement that most legislators and elected officials over the age of 75 ‘raise concerns about (an elected official’s) ability to perform their job.’ ”

For some older elected officials, there is simply too much time that has passed between their major life moments and those of younger generations.

While creating an age limit might seem like a simple fix, it is not. The Constitution would have to be amended. However, there are a few ideas in circulation. For example, in North Dakota, there is a petition being shared by a conservative activist to urge a vote on legislation that would prohibit anyone who would turn 81 by the end of their term to be elected to a congressional seat.

U.S. Rep. John James, R-Mich., proposed a bill in September that would amend the Constitution to establish an upper age limit for president, vice president and members of Congress.

While these are extreme solutions, a simpler solution — proposed by Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley — involves cognitive tests for those older than 75.

It is important to remember that our elected federal officials reflect the morals and values of Americans.

And keep in mind that age is correlated at times with cognitive ability and mental capability. Do your research before you cast your vote.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *