aging well

Joe Biden is the oldest American president at 81 years of age. He is the ninth oldest national leader in the world. Donald Trump is “only” 77, still placing him in the top 20 should he return to the Oval Office. Third party and presidential wannabe RFK Jr. is seemingly just a babe at age 70. Regardless, it is no secret; the plethora of Americans want someone not only different but also younger. We are skeptical about the octogenarian or near-octogenarian’s fitness for the job.

And so we ask: is age just a number?

Let’s examine the numbers a little further, quoting Pew Research in an updated account, examining key facts about the ages of current national leaders…

  1. National leaders range in age from their mid-30s to 91. The youngest leader is Burkina Faso’s Ibrahim Traoré, who is 36. He only slightly edges out two fellow 36-year-olds, Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa and Montenegrin Prime Minister Milojko Spajić. Only two other world leaders are in their 30s: Irish Taoiseach Simon Harris and Chilean President Gabriel Boric. The oldest national leader is President Paul Biya of Cameroon, who was born in 1933 and took office more than 40 years ago. Biya is the only current national leader in his 90s.
  1. The median age of current national leaders is 62, as of May 1, 2024. The largest share of global leaders today (34%) are in their 60s. Roughly a quarter (22%) are in their 50s; 19% are in their 70s; and 16% are in their 40s. Biden is among the 5% of leaders who are in their 80s.
  1. Countries that are less free tend to have older leaders. In countries that Freedom House classifies as “not free,” the median age of the national leader is 68. That compares with 62 in countries that are classified as “partly free” and 60 in countries classified as “free.” The United States is one of only three countries that are classified as free and have a leader age 80 or older; the other two are Ghana and Namibia. In Ghana, President Nana Akufo-Addo recently turned 80 in office. And in Namibia, 82-year-old Nangolo Mbumba took over as president earlier this year following the previous leader’s death in office at age 82.
  1. The median age for women leaders and men leaders is the same. Among men who are world leaders, 3% are in their 30s, while no women leaders are in this age group. Yet, of the 14 women leaders currently in power, 29% are in their 40s, compared with 14% of leaders who are men. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen of Denmark is the youngest female leader at 46, followed closely by fellow 46-year-old Kaja Kallas, the prime minister of Estonia. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh is the oldest female leader at 76.
  1. In most countries, the leader is significantly older than the median member of the population. For example, the median American is 38, according to UN population projections for 2024, while Biden is more than twice as old. In fact, the only countries that have a leader who is younger than the median resident of the country are Montenegro, Ireland and Italy. Andorran Prime Minister Xavier Espot Zamora, at 44, is the same age as the median Andorran resident. In general, countries that Freedom House classifies as free are more likely than those classified as partly free or not free to have leaders who are closer in age to the median resident of the country.”

With only 180 days until the election (insert an exasperating sigh here), I thought an age examination might make us feel better.

But then I realize, it’s not just the number; it’s not just the sum of 8 distinct decades. It’s the combination of these candidates.

Praying for wisdom. Praying for discernment. With absolutely all due respect, praying, also, for how this election impacts our country when our choice is sincerely, unfortunately so disappointing and poor. Hopefully this will jumpstart us into better candidates in the future.

Yes, indeed, age is more than a number.