Senator McCain's Catastrophic Choice
Age and John McCain - Part 2

Age and John McCain – Part 1

category_bug_politics.gif In the 24 August edition of This Week in Elder News, Citizen K left the following comment:

“I would be very interested for readers of Time Goes By to weigh in as objectively and honestly as possible on the age question. I barely qualify for the blog, so my insight is not the kind I'm looking for! I will say that my 80-year-old father - who is healthy and as intellectually sharp as ever - says that McCain is not up to the job and that age is a part of it. I get the impression that he sees McCain as an old 72. We've all heard about the forgetfulness in speeches and so forth.

“I'm not waving a red flag here or being deliberately provocative. But I also don't think that this is a matter of ageism. Consider parenting: At 53, I know a lot more than I did twenty years ago and would make better decisions. I also know that I simply don't have the energy for it and that that is a function of age.”

Citizen K asks a legitimate question, one I have thought about long and hard as I have closely watched the progression of the presidential campaign in general and Senator McCain over nearly two years. On a blog where the topic is steadfastly about age and its consequences, the question cannot be ignored.

So today and tomorrow will be devoted to consideration of Senator McCain’s age. Keep in mind that for reasons of policy issues, I support Senator Barack Obama and strongly oppose McCain. However, as far as it is humanly possible, I will keep it objective, reporting facts as they are known and clearly explaining my opinions. If you catch me going off track, speak up. And I look forward to additional thoughts and responses from you.

In the past, I have vehemently argued that to vote against Senator McCain based solely on the number of his years is ageist and morally reprehensible. I stand by that. But there is more to age than simple arithmetic.

Seventy-two sounds like Methuselah to young people, but the fact is that we age at dramatically different rates depending on health, genes and plain dumb luck. Some 50-year-olds already show signs of physical and/or cognitive impairment; some 80-year-olds are running corporations and even, occasionally, marathons. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle.

Some recent research shows that aging brains are much more resilient and adaptive than previously known. As one example, elders make greater simultaneous use of both sides of their brains calling forth a wider range of experiential input than in youth, leading to better judgment and what one brain researcher calls “biological wisdom.”

This is good news, but the most important thing to remember about how we age is how individual it is. Development in infants and toddlers can be measured to the month and even week of life, and if the kid isn’t walking or talking by the expected time, it can be cause for concern. But in elders, one person’s memory difficulties at, say, age 72, can be non-existent in another.

So the question in considering Senator McCain’s age is not the number itself, but whether McCain’s condition at age 72 is healthy and sharp enough to endure the responsibilities and pressures of a tough job at any time in history and a tougher one now given the multitude of domestic and international crises that must be addressed with intelligence, stamina and judgment.

With the dozens of debates, hundreds of speeches and innumerable interviews with journalists, there is plenty of information about Senator McCain on which voters can base that assessment. Elders are uniquely qualified to do so; we are already old, few of us are at the extremes of the aging spectrum mentioned above, and we know how age has and has not changed us.

Over the past 15 years, Senator McCain has had four melanomas, all surgically removed. Only one, in 2000, was invasive and doctors found no evidence of spreading following dissection of dozens of lymph glands.

When his plane crashed in Vietnam in 1967, both arms and a leg were broken. Under torture, both shoulders were broken. Lack of treatment while a prisoner has left Senator McCain with a limited range of motion in his arms and shoulders. His diet was less than adequate during his imprisonment.

McCain uses several medications: a diuretic to prevent kidney stones (some bladder stones were blasted with a laser several years ago); Zyrtec for nasal allergies; aspirin to prevent the formation of blood clots; Ambien CR for insomnia; and a multivitamin, all of which are relatively common among people of his age.

Neither the melanoma nor effects from the broken bones are age-related, and following his last physical examination in March 2008, physicians pronounced the senator in “excellent health.” (More on McCain's March physical here.)

However, the reports of his medical exams do not make any mention of normal decline of aging. Speaking only for myself, four-and-a-half years younger than Senator McCain, I know how my energy and stamina – both physical and cognitive - have changed in the past ten years or so.

  • All my energy is concentrated in the first half of the day. If my to-do list doesn't get done by mid-afternoon, it isn’t going to happen today. My mind becomes fuzzy late in the day, detailed thinking is difficult. Tasks as simple as sorting laundry or running the vacuum cleaner feel like too much and I leave them for tomorrow.
  • Stamina is lacking. Gone are the days when I could work 10 or 12 hours, shop and cook dinner for four, clean up the kitchen and go out to the movies.
  • I must write my blog posts early on the day before they are posted. Whenever you read a post that is poorly written, lacking detail and especially when it is badly organized, you would win if you bet it was written after 3PM.
  • When my regular schedule is disrupted as with house guests or travel or circumstances force me to do with less than seven hours of sleep, sloth sets in. I need a day to fully recover my physical and mental capabilities.
  • Sometimes and unpredictably, even when I have slept well and have not disrupted my routine, I have an overwhelming urge for a nap in the afternoon. And if there is to be an evening engagement, I always need a nap to be sure I won’t fall asleep in the soup.

I believe that I'm smarter, better informed and make better connections among many disparate pieces of information than I could when I was younger. But not after 3PM. I would never undertake a decision that requires judgment in any of the above circumstances. I know from friends my age and many of you when we have discussed aging here, that all these changes are fairly typical after 50 or 60.

It is conceivable that Senator McCain does not suffer from these debilities. But a little-reported fact is that although the McCain campaign attacked Senator Obama for taking a week’s vacation with his family in Hawaii, McCain, with rare exceptions, did not campaign on weekends during the long primary season.

Did he need those weekends to rest up from five days on the road? It is a reasonable question because events that require a president’s immediate attention and judgment do not happen only on weekdays during office hours.

Age and John McCain - Part 2

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Daisy takes us back to an earlier Republican Convention in I Wish Someone Would Phone.]


I'm 60, nearly 61 and my energy is fading. McCain, like me, is a "die hard" competitor and that's driving him beyond what he'd normally do. He doesn't want to lose and nor do I. What we do is structure our lives around the single focused task and we pull it off. However, it requires "rest" strategies such as a lot of sleep and rest on weekends. It's smoke and mirrors for me and, I believe, for John McCain. As some of you know, I usually vote Republican but I voted for Clinton back when because I saw Dole as too old. Therefore, I may vote for Obama this time especially since he's not as bad as the conservative fear mongers make him out to be, and, best of all, he's moving toward the relative center as most candidates do. Count my vote for too old, FROM WHAT I KNOW AND OBSERVE ABOUT THE MAN. PS: For those of us into astrology, JM is a Virgo and they NEVER GIVE UP, until the bitter end ala LBJ--that's enough to scare me off! (sports analogy would be "they like overtime until they finally win")

I vote for McCain's being too old based on how he confuses those groups in the Middle East that Joe Lieberman corrected him on and still doesn't get them right. His anger and impulsivity bother me, but this discussion isn't about that.

I want to see how he performs during the debates when he has to think on his feet and actually debate.

OK, I’m 68 now and I’m failing. No, I’m not failing fast. But I’m certainly not the 50 year old that I sometimes wish I were. I take no med's on a regular basis. No aspirin and not even multivitamins. I’ve been racewalking for the past 7 years and that has helped to keep me fit. But, still…I’m failing and I know it. And if John were honest, he would say the same thing.

So why the run for the presidency? I love to hear about 70, 80 and 90 year old's that are vital and active. If John were to stay on as the CEO of his own business, that’s fine. Admirable. His business and his risk. But as president, he puts me at risk. And that’s not acceptable.

One of the most important parts of my job while working, was contracts. They always involved a great deal of someone else's money and quite a few contingencies.

Until I was 60 I whipped through those contracts in no time and both sides were generally happy with the result. THEN, beginning with age 61 and on, they became more difficult to concentrate on and much harder to accomplish if it was after 4 P.M.

I struggled with that until I retired at 62. I used any excuse to wait until the next morning to do a contract and ,if that was impossible, I shared my commission with one of my younger associates in order to have them meet with the people involved and do the contract under my supervision,but they did all the running around and copying of the 10 page documents that were generated.

I know John McCain will have dozens of people surrounding him and they will be the ones doing the scut work but, it will be HE who will be making the big decisions leading to the final disposition of the crisis or treaty, and I think it will be too much of a burden on him because of his age, just as it was too much for me due to my growing older.As an aside, I also had a better disposition than he is reputed to have, which made the work a bit easier to do.

Not only for the reasons above, but for many others too numerous to mention, I will be voting the Obama-Biden ticket in November and hoping they win.

After seeing dementia up close, and knowing how subtle it can be in its early stages, I would hesitate to vote for any presidential candidate much beyond their mid-60s, because of the increased risk of the disease.

The VP candidate doesn't matter, IMO - how would you even go about removing a president suffering from dementia to put the VP in charge?

Please note that it's just the job of president I'm talking about. Anything else any elder wants to do is fine with me, assuming it doesn't include nuclear weapons.

Aside from his many policy positions that I don't agree with -- what concerns me most about McCain is his impetuousness, his recklessness. He seems to operate from a belief that he can cut through obstacles with inspired gambles (see for example the choice of Palin or his excitement about supporting the rash Georgian president.)

I do not assume this behavior is age related. It would not be in me. I've become less likely to jump into things without thinking them through as I get older.

But though this in McCain does not off the top strike me as age-related, it also strikes me as not quite within the normal range of behavior, even for someone among the rarefied set of people who would ever dare to want to be President. I'd be curious to read any thoughts on this.

Thank you, Ronni, for your perceptive description of the effects of aging. At age 71 I often wonder why I'm so tired in the afternoon. Early in the day I feel just like I did many years ago, but I do often fade and want that nap. I'll cut myself some slack now that I've read your blog post.

I haven't heard anything that would, on the face of it, disqualify McCain to be an effective president. However, his positions and his judgement are another matter entirely.

I appreciate, Ronni, your descriptions of exactly how your energy has changed. I have a lot of energy and wonder what is going to happen to me. That aside, I agree that people age differently. I think a vigorous 72-year-old could certainly be president. (Keep in mind I am a progressive and won't be voting for McCain for any reason.)

I have to admit that I have not heard many of McCain's speeches or interviews, but those I have heard sound like a man who is unable to respond unless he stays on message. He answers with memorized lines from his staff. If a question throws him, he just doesn't answer. Or he evades it with an inane answer like "read my book." He does not sound like the vibrant candidate of eight years ago and I think his age is showing. We are seeing him with make up on and after being prepped by his aids. I wonder what he looks like before the make over. Sorry to say, but the more I see of him the more I have to attribute his change to age.

When Reagan, who was in his 70's was president, during his 2nd term, he was photographed sleeping during meetings and shortly after he left office, he admitted to being diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers. Those things can happen at younger ages but 70 and older, one is at higher risk for these. But to me, the GREATER concern, is that McCain takes AmbienCR.

Ambien has been in the news over the last year or so because it causes amnesia. In the elderly in particulary it is the worst sleep drup to use because of this. My mom was on it when it first came out and I got called cause she was wandering the halls of her apt building, naked. Nice huh? She had no clue where she was and what she was doing. And, she is not alone.

Remember Patrick Kennedy who was picked up when he crashed his car and he didn't know where he was or what he was doing? They said he was on drugs...he was, he was taking ambien for sleep.

So to quote Hillary's commercial, who will answer that 3 Am phone call? I hope its not McCain

I understand what's being said about aging, slowing down, etc., etc., and it seems perfectly clear to me that McCain has slowed down considerably, not to mention becoming cranky and cantankerous. I rather enjoy being cranky and cantankerous myself on occasion, and I've probably slowed down more than I'd care to admit, but I'm only responsible for my little job and my little life. I wouldn't want anyone like me running the country, and that's the truth. I wouldn't care much about McCain's age, either, if he possessed the leadership qualities and good sense to be in charge - and if he'd picked a half-decent running mate. I mean who - including the Republicans (obviously I'm not one) - is crazy enough to think that Palin should run the show if/when McCain becomes
incapacitated or dies? So what happens now? They "fix" the voting machines again and we end up with more of the same, and maybe even worse? Thanks for the education on AmbienCR, NancyB. Having the prez running around the white house nekkid ought to at least provide some comic relief.

How did his five years in a Viet Cong prison camp affect McCain's personality and his behavioral constitution? Would the damage caused by five years incarceration and torture have impacted on his attitudes and reactions? If he were ten years younger, would he be better suited to meet the needs of the office of Commander-in-chief?
Why does McCain what to be President at this point in his life?
I am occasionally annoyed by the patronizing attitude some 30-somethings show towards me and my 74 years. How will they feel about McCain?

If picking the inexperienced govenor of Alaska, Sarah Palin ,as his VP running mate is an example of John McCain's judgement then HE is indeed not qualified to be POTUS. The first concrete example of how McCain would govern, picking his VP, is a dangerous choice. Was he desperate and caved in to the fundamentalist base in a snap decision or is he simply not thinking straight?

I will not blame this inept decision
on McCain's age, but rather on his desperate attempt to grab the brass ring of the presidency that eluded him in 2000.

Sarah Palin, one heartbeat away from the presidencdy, is too scary to contemplate.

I certainly admire McCain's ability to keep up a grueling campaign schedule that would fatigue many a person half his age. It indicates a stamina and desire, and yes, a state of health that is above average.

That being said, everybody is looking at McCain at 72 as he might start his Presidency. What about 2010, or 2011, or 2012? As much as he and his advisors would like to deny nature, he will decline in his physical and mental capabilities over that time. If he is having memory and health problems now, how will he be in 4 years?

What will his decision-making abilities be in 2011? When will his melanoma and wartime injuries finally catch up with him? Given his temper and his tendency for quick -- and sometimes rash -- decisions, how will he perform when a crucial situation arises when he is outside his physical and mental "prime time?" How many decisions will have to be made by advisors and underlings due to his age-related incapacity?

I don't think these are ageist questions; they are just the hard questions. And I think that people considering voting for McCain need to separate themselves from the excitements of the moment and the euphoria of the campaign to ask these and similar hard questions.

I could care less about his age. It's his policies that scare me. I don't need to see anyone's kids sent off to a war with Iran.

Nothing to do with his age. Nothing to do with the number. It's just a dumb number.

Everything to do with his policies. We Canadians are worried that he will promote war. And whatever the USA does, we are the brother, so it affects us equally.

Nobody I know critiques McCain's age, just his policies. The whole world is waiting for some kind of messiah, and many think Obama is that man.

I just hope he does what he says he will do, and motivates the USA to where it belongs, in terms of health care, returning soldiers, education, senior care and sharing expertise with poverty stricken countries.

You and your commenters said it all. He worried me before and everything he does increases that concern about what he'd be like if he had that much power. Now with picking someone totally inexperienced just to get his own tabloid story, he increases my concern. I hope Americans see this before it's too late and once again aren't bamboozled into a pretty face and slick talk. They say Obama is that (and he's not) but then they turn around and nominate someone who is and they are joyful simply because she's a christianist.

Age is a very important issue. Reflect for a moment on how all of the former presidents have prematurely aged in office. Look at the Frat Boy looks of George W when he took office. Look at him now.It takes a big toll. McCain is starting out old.

At 74 yrs I have experienced much of the same decline in energy as commented on above, not to mention "senior moments". This is true of most older folk I know.

Now, here's the thing on the health issue. I have observed low these many years, that as long as an older person remains status quo even with existing health issues, all is well. But, it doesn't take much to alter that balance and cause a domino effect in decline. Heck at John's age a severe case of hemorrhoids could lay him pretty low. He does not have to actually keel over to become incapacitated. Ready or not Sarah would step in.

He has definately shown signs of mental stress if not decline. Look how he has milked the war hero Hanoi Hilton thing over and over relating it to almost any question put to him. My Dad and brothers served heroically with decorations and having been a German POW and guess what, they hardly ever spoke of it.

How do I view John McCain? Well he seems to me a peevish old fuffer and I'll add, it takes one to know one.

Hi Ronnie,
I'm looking forward to my 81st birthday in January.Art Linkletter said"Old age is not for sissies.That is true if you have to do everything yourself.I live alone and do all the cleaning,cooking,laundry and personal needs.I don't like food shopping and do it on the computer.
John McCain doesn't have to do any of those chores.I'm sure he has plenty of energy to run the country.

A friend just referred me to your website.

The post by Ronni was excellent. I am 62, and all these points mentioned are happening to me.

John McCain seems hell bent to reach his goal of being our next President.

The concept of goal setting is admirable, but the facts still remain, the man will be almost 77 when his first term is over!

It is quite amazing to me that more voters are not that concerned about his "memory lapses" and physical impairments.

Since I am a senior citizen, conservative, go to a Christian Bible Church, white,people assume I am voting for McCain.

This election, thanks to his age, policies, anger issues, selecting the unknown Palin to get the "female vote" I have had it with McCain.

A person has to realize age limitations and McCains ego will not allow him.

I really feel here should be an age cap for Senators and Presidents.

What concerns me is that I have PTSD which I am sure McCain does too. It is a known fact that people with PTSD make rash decisions often times that they sorely regret. I am no stranger to this.
This is a gamble with the country, it is not fair to our country to elect a man with such a short fuse, bad memory and lack of fundamental understanding of what this country needs. (Certainly not more wars and more PTSD)!

I'm not a supporter of McCain, but during the primaries I figured he was up for the job by watching him campaign. I'm only 56, and it would kill me to campaign like Obama and McCain. I would require a week of rest after just one full day of visiting several cities and meetings with hundreds of people. Anyone who can survive months of campaigning probably has the stamina for the job. Hell, getting the job for McCain might even be bad for him because it will be cutting way back on activity. Whether or not he'll have the same stamina for four years is another question. But I expect him to be a man in exceptional health.

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