Nobody Is Too Old To Do Anything, Unless They Just Can’t Do It

Nobody Is Too Old To Do Anything, Unless They Just Can’t Do It

In 2022, I wrote about Joni Mitchell performing at the Newport Folk Festival.Last week, in her first-ever Grammy performance, Joni Mitchell, at 80 years old, sang her song ‘Both Sides Now’. On the same show, Billy Joel, age 74, performed two songs. Is Joni too old? Is Billy too old? Should we have a mandatory retirement age for musicians?

As I previously wrote, after her debilitating brain aneurysm in 2015, Joni had to re-learn how to get out of a chair, how to play the guitar, and she had to teach herself how to sing again. And here she was again, at The Grammys, a living example of how strength, determination and resilience are integral parts of being old. She is a role model for us at all ages - a far cry from what our ageist culture teaches.

Eighteen months ago I wrote about Joni because of an article Robert Reich had just written titled ‘Is Biden Too Old?’ Should we have a mandatory retirement age for Presidents? (I know some politicians who never should have even started, let alone stop at a certain age.)

Everybody ages differently, and our competencies, abilities and capacities do change as we age. And, whether President Biden is physically and mentally fit to be re-elected President is a question for him, his family, his medical team and the American people to answer, and should not be based on un-thinking, broad-brush ageist stereotypes.

As I’ve asked before, what does the number of the earth’s revolutions around the sun since one’s birth have to do with anything? Nobody is too old to do anything, unless they just can’t do it. At whatever age. Period. On a case-by-case basis.

But everybody and their uncle or aunt has an opinion about somebody being “too old” for something. And almost everybody and their uncle or aunt are ageist – all of us have unconscious bias in one form or another.

There might be some exceptions. The FAA says air-traffic controllers can’t work past the age of 56 – I guess I’d have to think about that one. Although now that I think about it, why not change a probably outdated system to reduce the risk rather than impose mandatory retirement? There’s probably plenty of 57-year-old air-traffic controllers who would agree.

I have some significant disagreements with Biden, but if we look at his track record in office instead of the number of times the earth went around the sun we will see documented accomplishments, not doddering: our country’s biggest investment in clean energy, the first gun safety bill in 30 years, revitalized American manufacturing (Buy In America, CHIPS, Inflation Reduction Act), lowered prescription drug prices, biggest infrastructure bill in 70 years… and Biden led the country through immunization as well as the economic and local government rebound after Covid. Biden’s four-trillion-dollar investment in the American economy will impact for generations to come.

Whether Biden can run for president, or the decision whether anybody is too old to do anything, needs to be based on discernable facts on a case-by-case basis.As we discuss in the CourAGEus Online Conscious Aging Workshops, getting old is both loss AND opportunity. Getting old does include strength, determination and resilience. If we think life peaks in middle-age and then it’s all downhill after that, that’s what we get.

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