Most people who live to 65 will make it to 90.

I was speaking with a colleague recently about ageism in our current presidential election in the United States. I was sharing my frustration and fascination with all the questions about whether there should be an upper age limit for the presidency. He told me that he thought there should be an upper age limit, because life expectancy for American humans is generally in the 70’s. Therefore, any president over general life expectancy was at a greater risk of dying in office and therefore an older president was a greater risk for our country. 

Sounded reasonable—until I looked it up. The reason that life expectancy is in the 70’s is because of all of the deaths of younger Americans, not because people start falling off real and metaphorical cliffs after 75. It’s the opioid crisis, not the rampage of natural aging, that has contributed to declining life expectancy in the US in recent years. 

Elections and life expectancy

If you are blessed to live to 65 you are actually more likely to make it to 90. (Click on the link to see on page 5 the life expectancy chart from JP Morgan Asset’s 2024 Retirement Report.)

Furthermore, the president of the United States of America receives the best healthcare in the world. If anyone 65+ can count on some quality healthcare to promote healthy longevity, it’s that guy.

Also, any President of the United States of America is at least as likely, if not more so, to die in office from assassination as from natural causes. (Depends on where you stand on the Zachary Taylor and Warren G. Harding poisoning conspiracies.)

Those of our presidents who died naturally in office did so at an average age of 63. Both of our likely presidential candidates are older than 63, and also likely to live to 90.

Ageism eclipses reality

You know who else is likely to live to 90? Many members of my family, with whom I just spent four glorious minutes observing the eclipse on the family farm in Arkansas. In one of the greatest joys of my lifetime, I was present as the path of totality passed over one of my favorite places on earth. I shared cheers and tears with family members from age 4 to 89.

After the sun came back out, the roosters stopped crowing, and we returned to our card game, a few members of the family commented that this was probably the last eclipse they would see before they died because they were in their sixties. We looked it up, and it turns out that another solar eclipse totality will pass over the farm in August 2045. First off, I’ll be there.

More importantly, it is statistically likely that most of these same people will be there with me.

The majority of the attendees of our eclipse party were in their 60’s, placing them in their 80’s for the next eclipse. They are just as likely as I am, at 42, to live to see the next one.

Ageism clouds our perception of our own life expectancy. It is an ageist stereotype that you are about to drop dead any minute after age 65, and it’s factually inaccurate. There are many reasons to support one of these upcoming presidential candidates over the other. I just don’t believe that withholding your support for fear of a candidate’s natural death is a solid enough reason. There is reason to hope for, look forward to, and even expect good things in every stage of our lives. You can find me in Arkansas in August of 2045 and I expect that eclipse party to have lots of octogenarians.

 

About the author

Erin MaruzzellaErin Maruzzella is an upstreamist with over a decade of experience as a direct patient care provider in geriatrics and an Executive MBA in Health Administration. She is the Executive Director of Innovations in Aging Collaborative, where she works to build sustainable systems that serve equity at all stages of life.

She is an advisor for the Innovation and Social Impact Advisory Council for the American Society on Aging, a board member for the Colorado Center for Aging, and a commissioner for the Pikes Peak Commission on Aging. A mentor to AgeTech startups and a smart cities champion, Erin is an expert in cross-sector collaboration. She is a consultant in Age-Friendly Design Thinking for product design, government systems, and the built environment.

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