Arranging a Life in Retirement
Google Accuses Crabby Old Lady of Dishonesty

Quindlen's Shameful Ageism


“Each time I’m described as middle-aged the 25-year-old still living in me lets out a scream.

“Granted, I now have a perspective, a wisdom, a more comprehensive body of knowledge, if only I could remember it. But words elude me occasionally, which is challenging for a wordsmith. More important, there’s a certain spark that now smolders sometimes. So where’s the sweet spot, that moment when the timeline of experience intersects perfectly with the trajectory of excitement? It’s different times for different people, but it seldom occurs late in life.”

That’s Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Anna Quindlen in the last week's issue of Newsweek arguing that Senator John McCain is too old to be president while projecting onto Mr. McCain her reluctance to come to terms with her own aging.

Ms. Quindlen, who is in her mid-fifties, appears to believe the myth that aging is about nothing but decline and that physical infirmity should bar one from high office. Tell that to Franklin Roosevelt, whose domestic agenda did more good for the American people than any ten other presidents put together.

A large part of her argument depends on the fact that Senator McCain “…takes the stairs slowly and cannot lift his arms to comb his hair.” I’m unaware that those “infirmities,” as Ms. Quindlen labels them, affect his mind and in fact, are not related to age at all.

When McCain’s A-4 Skyhawk was shot down over Vietnam in 1967, both arms and a leg were broken, he nearly drowned in the lake where he landed and the mob that then attacked him crushed his shoulders and broke several ribs. He was denied medical care for a week or more until the Vietnamese discovered McCain’s father was a top admiral. And all that was before the torture began.

To equate the results of McCain’s war injuries with mental incapacity is worse than nonsense; it is shameful and reflects the writer’s ageism.

Ms. Quindlen also notes that if Senator McCain is elected he will be, at 72, more than two years older than President Reagan when he entered office - as if this is an important difference. As often noted here, people age at dramatically different rates and times in their lives and the current U.S. average age at death is about 77. That’s average and I haven’t noticed Senator McCain nodding off during speeches as former President Clinton – age 61 – was recently caught on camera doing.

Senator McCain is not my choice for president, but it’s not his age that disqualifies him for me and it should not be for anyone else. If a widely-read, national columnist dissects a candidate's qualifications for office, she has an obligation to know what she's talking about or at least acknowledge her personal prejudices if she can't disregard them.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Georgie Bright Kunkel does some thinking about First Ladies and Maybe Even First Gentlemen.]


I can't pretend to know much about the presidential candidates' policies but I do so agree with your defence of McCain after such a foolish article.
Physical disabilities should never deter anyone from living their life to the full.
We have friends aged 80 and 81 who, despite three knee and three hip replacements between them, still go all over the place in their 'camping car'.

She,Quindlen, obviously is experiencing some signs of abnormal aging that are causing her concern so she is projecting onto others. That is my non-shrink analysis. I will say that this election feels like it is a hundred years in the making. So many pundits expressing their expert opinions that really do not matter. What matters is what we the people think and do. Am I crazy or have none of the political candidates have embraced our rather large group?

The state of Florida voted and it will only count for the Republicans not Democrats because the democratic national party wanted to punish the state for voting early. So they took away the power of votes. Do you think it had anything to do with the fact that there is a huge over 65 population so they thought they could get away with it?

People like Quindlen fuel the fire of making us the forgotten generation...we have no minds, no thoughts, no brain physical power. I for one am sick of it and wish we could unite to show our strength!

Why are so many elders in denial about the inevitable? It robs them of enjoying these years. Yeah, there are problems but there were problems in every age we've experienced. (And if there weren't, you're a hell of a lot luckier than I am) I still hang on to the belief that God isn't finished with me yet and there are good things left to come.

I liked it when McCain's age was mentioned & he replied, "Tell that to my 95-year-old mother!"

I am so disappointed in Ms. Quindlen. She's always been a favorite of mine.

Quindlen's idea that there is just one "...sweet spot ..(one) moment when the timeline of experience intersects perfectly with the trajectory of excitement" is so far off-base as to be ludicrous.
She's probably not old enough or wise enough (or possibly even lucky enough) to have discovered it yet, but all the people I know who are consciously and enthusiastically launched into their 'third age' and living every day to the full could set her straight. For many of us in this wonderful phase of life the 'timeline of experience' and the 'trajectory of excitement' don't just meet and cross paths one time. They seem to meet and cross and meet and cross again and again and dance together on a daily basis. Those 'sweet spots' where they intersect have become too numerous to count.
(Oh and by the way, John and I are not related, as far as I know. Just as well, for I am sure we wouldn't see eye to eye about much!)

Hey, Ronni & how about that old guy, Mike Wallace, having a triple by-pass at Between him & McCain a person could get excited about being an elder! BTW, Anna Quindlen has alot of living to do yet before she "gets" it. Have a great day. Dee

It is, indeed, sad that Anna Quindlen has tarnished her reputation by stereotyping the elderly.

I will say that Ronnie Reagan is not a good example of how an elderly President will govern. I feel sure that his Alzheimer's Disease was already affecting his ability to function long before he announced it.

There are infirmities of age that are unavoidable and if a person becomes President at 72 years old he/she will be 76 before his/her term is up; or perhaps 80 if re-elected. Having 'been there - done that' I can tell you that the 16 hour days of the demanding and stressful job of the Presidency would be beyond the capabilities of anyone my age that I know. There aren't too many Robert Byrds in this world.

I have no problem at all with McCain's age. It's his politics that put me off.

We're going to be getting a lot of this stuff in the upcoming McCain v. Clinton race. Somewhat oddly, BOTH of them appeal primarily to an older demographic -- durned if I know what the relatively "young" (under 50s) will make of them. But I can be pretty sure that through various surrogate slurs, each will try to nail the other with agist stereotypes: too set in their ways, too stuck in the past etc.

Yes, I know this is nonsense, but I guarantee it will be out there about both of the likely nominees. Clinton will get it too because she doesn't represent the young on her side of the fence.

Nasty stew of agist bigotry we'll be living in.

I think that "the perspective of wisdom" has passed Ms Quindlen by. Or, perhaps she is still too young?

I'm thrilled with the support regarding getting old. Here, for example, I had surgery for ovarian cancer and the removal of my gallbladder January 18th..

I could resume work, next week and never look back if I weren't beginning chemo, which I will survive..and I'm 61 years what does that make me? My day job selling commercial real estate involves calculations, and demographics..boggles my mind and to this moment I love it.....My average property sale is 10 million, might they be dealing with a senile woman who closes those sales? I don't think so.

Should I retire...? I hope not as I'm convinced I have many more years and surprisingly continue to have my customers come back. A few have already begun teasing me as to how I'll look with no hair... so for our lady friend, let's see what happens as she walks in our shoes..and be glad there are more of us level thinkers..realizing there are always the naysayers and we'll just ignore them and do what we do best.....

Thanks for supporting the seniors of America... I'll be showing the elder blog badge on my grammology site today.

My best,
Dorothy from grammology
remember to call your gram

I have been hearing that ageism issue with him also and it could be valid as an issue if his health had seemed questionable but that could be at any age if someone knew for instance the problems that JFK had healtwise in his 40s. Where McCain's mother is still spry and alert mentally at 90 something, I would say genetics are in his favor. It's not like our presidents have to go out and do battle with other leaders. My objection to McCain is his temperament (bad temper that he loses control of pretty easily) warmongering attitude that he verbalizes at least, and how he seems determined to keep going down the Bush road.

Yes, I am sad to hear this ageism coming from Anna Quindlen who has contributed so much to understanding violence against women and other issues. It is concerning that judgements are being made based on age, gender and race rather than policies, vision and character. Horizontal hostility appears when groups that have historically been left out in society, start attacking one another. Hope we can focus on substance.

Lo how the might have fallen. Once, Anna Quindlen had a point of view that I found interesting. Now, it is bigoted, even dangerous. Thank you for yet again being the canary in a coal mine. Pardon my chutzpa... would you consider sending your blog post (abridged, as needed) to Newsweek's letters to the editor?

Hear, hear!
And I agree with Tamar. I was thinking this a.m. how good it would be for just as many readers to read your post.

Oh thank the LAWD! I no longer have a "25-year-old still living in me." If I did, I would have spent this weekend ping-ponging between night clubs and the hangover couch watching stupid movies. Instead I skiied, visited with friends, spoke to my family, and worked on a publication and a grant application.

If she still has a 25-year-old kicking around, she has more to worry about than her aging.


Wow, two of my favorites coming out in opposition to another of my favorites. I am surprised by Anna Quindlen's remarks as I have read her writing for years and would not have thought her to be ageist. I am not surprised by Google. My husband and I are involved in the Internet Marketing arena and I have heard many a angry blogger or website owner bemoan Google's indiscriminate ban of their blog or website.

One of my favorite new TV shows is Journeyman on ABC about a man who time travels. ABC has decided to cancel the show in spite of a good following. Because the show takes place in San Francisco, fans of the show are sending boxes of Rice-a-Roni to ABC corporate office. Hummmm, what could the fans of Time Goes By, Ronni and Crabby Old Lady send to Google to show our support???? Perhaps some creative, elder mind can come up with a good idea.

As to other sources of new alerts, there are many. Go to the following website and you will find a large list of some of the most popular.

If any site is above reproach and a clear example of what a well run blog should be, it would be Time Goes By. Hang tough woman; surely the big boys can't win all the time. Can they?

Shameful. I've taken to noting that all one has to do to determine ageism is to substitute some other "ism" -- such as racism into the proposition. The discrimination becomes shockingly obvious whenever one does. Shame on Quindlen and the New York Times. Of course, what do I know? I'm over the hill anyway.

It is always fascinating to watch prejudice in action. Everyone, of course, denies it. It is always presented as "simply being reasonable" and "just trying to avoid a problem". Subtlety is its trademark. We have all felt it.

It will be very interesting to observe during this political season which offers an a la carte menu for prejudice - age, gender, race, and religion. I fear we will be engulfed by it. During the process, not only will the pundits reveal themselves, but each of us will as well.

Thank you for raising this issue in my mind and in those of many others. Admitting its existence is the first step toward combating its effect. It is hard enough to select that person whose vision, charisma, determination, and practicality will extract us from the current morass. If we allow prejudice to limit our choice, we will deserve living with the limitations we choose.

The comments to this entry are closed.