The debate surrounding a maximum age for elected officials reignites following public episodes

A recent poll shows most Americans want a limit on how old lawmakers and a president can be to serve.
Published: Sep. 8, 2023 at 5:04 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The debate around age limits for politicians has been reignited this summer after several awkward public moments involving elected officials. And it has Americans wondering, if there is a minimum age to serve, why should there not be a maximum age as well?

In June, a crowd laughed at 80 year old President Joe Biden when, the oldest serving president in American history, joked about his age.

“I know I’m 198 years old,” Biden said at a political event in Washington D.C.

But recent instances with older lawmakers have Americans concerned like 81 year old Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) froze during news conferences in July and August.

And then there’s 90 year old Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) who had to be told how to vote in a committee meeting in July.

Recent polls show most Americans think the age of politicians is no joke. A CBS News poll said three in four people want a maximum age limit for elected officials. In that sample, 40 percent say that limit should be 70 years old.

Also, a Pew Research Center Survey revealed about half of Americans believe the ideal age of a president is someone in their 50s.

“It’s an understandable impulse when you see somebody, you know, struggle to communicate and struggle to do the job because perhaps of their age,” said Georgetown University Associate Professor Dr. Hans Noel.

Dr. Noel emphasized only lawmakers, and the president can place a formal age limit on themselves.

“The thing about being young is that eventually young people become not so young people and eventually become the old people you’d be shutting out,” Noel said.

Yet, Columbia University Professor of Health Policy and Aging Dr. John Rowe said age is a poor predictor of future behavior because people don’t age the same way.

“To pick an age is arbitrary,” said Dr. Rowe. “But the fact that we have established those age eligibility markers does not carry over to this concept of evaluating people’s fitness to play these varied roles.”

The Constitution sets minimum ages to serve in federal office: 25 years old for the House and 30 for the Senate. A president must be 35.

Now, Rep. John James (R-Mich.) has proposed a bill to set an upper limit for representatives, senators, and presidents at 75 years old.