Hillary Clinton: Addressing the Age Issue

'Old’ today isn’t quite the same as it used to be for presidents

Part of the Political Issues and Policies Special Report

If presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is elected, she will be 69 at her inauguration, the same age as Ronald Reagan when he took his oath of office. (Donald Trump would be 70.) Reagan is the oldest person ever to be elected to our nation’s highest office. Most presidents have been in their 50s when elected, though William Henry Harrison (we all remember him, right?) was 68.

Thing is, these days 69-year-olds have better longevity prospects than, say, 57-year-old George Washington did when he became our first president in 1789. Because of her gender, era and other factors, Clinton’s life expectancy has been calculated at 86.  In Washington’s day, “average life expectancy for a 50-year-old was probably somewhere around 65 years,” says Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics, in The Wall Street Journal. Indeed, Washington died at 67.

So before writing off Clinton or Trump based on their age, check out the slideshow below for some food for thought about life expectancy now vs. then.

Interestingly, many of our presidents, despite suffering terrible illnesses such as malaria or tuberculosis, lived long past the age when statistically they should have died (as you’ll see in the slideshow below).

It’s all relative. As Clinton herself noted in her first big speech as a candidate, “I’ll be the youngest woman president in the history of the United States.”

Some people might take the current actuarial estimate for Hillary Clinton’s longevity as bad news. Many people don’t like her and wish she’d bow out of politics and go home and knit sweaters for her grandchild.

The interesting thing, however, is that according to a recent poll, most voters don’t care about Hillary’s age.  What she knew about Benghazi? Yes, that matters to the American public. Her laugh? That turns off some people too. But her numerical age? Nope.

And to all of us over age 50, that’s progress.

Linda Bernstein
By Linda Bernstein
Linda Bernstein has written hundreds of articles for dozens of magazines and newspapers, writes the blog GenerationBsquared and teaches journalism at Long Island University, Brooklyn.
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