Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement that he is resigning from office as he nears age 86, the first Pope to do so since 1415, brings up the issue of age in government.
We no longer allow a forced retirement from employment based upon age, as it is seen as discriminatory, but yet the number of people retiring by age 66 is growing in percentage, and many are retiring as early as 62, the minimum age for Social Security, although many might be doing so at that age due to the poor economy of recent years.
When one considers that we have a United States Senator, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, who will be nearly 91 years of age when he plans to run for another six year term in 2014, one has to stop and consider the wisdom of such action.
Lautenberg would be the second sitting Senator running for office in his 90s, after Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who ran for his final term of office at age 94, and served until he was 100 years of age, but in a debilitated mental condition much of the time in his last years.
And when one looks at the Senate and realizes that 20 Senators are in their 70s, with some like Diane Feinstein starting her newest term at age 79, and that an additional 13 are 66 up to age 70, making for a third of the Senate being of traditional retirement age, one has to think that there should be some kind of age limit for serving in government, which denies a younger generation and “new blood” the opportunity to serve. Additionally, another 23 Senators are between 60 and 66, so will face the age issue within their next term of office.
In the House of Representatives, there are 9 members in their 80s, 32 in their 70s, and 137 in their 60s, making for 178 out of 435 being of retirement age or near it, about 40 percent, as compared to the 57 Senators who are of that age category.
There are those who believe in term limits, but it is more the issue of age limits that can have a deleterious effect on government.
Of course, one can always find exceptions, such as former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired at age 90, as second oldest Justice in history, and only because he figured it was time. Stevens continues to be totally alert and active at age 93 this April, playing tennis and showing no signs of decline.
But this is the exception to the rule, and it seems worthwhile to, somehow, make an age limit to RUN for office of age 75, meaning out of office by 81 at the latest for high public office, or a Congressman running at age 78 and leaving at age 80.
But, of course, this cannot be legislated, just a thought of what should be understood and accepted, as after all, even the Pope can be replaced, and no one is indispensable, despite their inner ego which thinks such is the case!