Have you ever seen a 70 year old explain how to use an iphone or Instagram to a 20 year old?
Probably not. So why is that same older politician in charge of making the laws for Facebook, Apple, and other tech companies to follow.
(speaking of social media, here’s a guide I wrote on how to use social media more consciously)
The idea of being a politician is “theoretically” to support, and to work on behalf of, the people in the area that you are representing. Maybe you’ve heard the term “public servant”. This term is relevant because politicians are supposed to serve the public.
But at what point, does age prevent someone from doing their job effectively?
As an independent member of the public (not a republican or a democrat) I think it’s logically reasonable, that those who are serving in the best interest of the public are qualified.
With over 330 million people in the United States, there’s certainly no shortage of qualified people.
It’s clear to anyone who’s even been in contact with elders in their 80’s and 90’s, that at some point mental health, clarity, and ability starts to decline. This is just a fact of life.
So why are there no rules, regulations, or policies for the Maximum age of our politicians? Simple science has proven that age plays a large part in mental decline.
Let’s dive in to why age matters in politics. ESPECIALLY WITH TECH TODAY
Does Age Matter? How Old Is Too Old To Run For Political Office?
Like most things in politics these days, often peoples opinions are pre-determined by which political party they belong to and where the idea came from.
To me this is backwards, ideas should not be political but discussed openly based on their merit and collective benefit to society.
Does age matter when it comes to how well you can do your job? Of course age matters. That’s why the average retirement age is 65.
In an age dominated by tech, how many new tech companies are started by 70 year olds?
When it comes to determining a maximum age for political office, it shouldn’t be based on any one persons opinion or any one study. Maximum age for political office should be determined free of political bias, and based purely on a collective understanding of scientific brain function data.
When Does The Brain’s Power Start To Decline?
Here’s what experts from all different fields have to say.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
MIT did a study in where researchers gathered data from nearly 50,000 people to test their cognitive ability at all different ages. The study found that different parts of the brain work best at different ages.
They found that raw speed in processing information peaks around age 19, then immediately starts to decline.
Short-term memory continues to improve until around age 25, when it levels off and then begins to drop around age 35.
The ability to evaluate other people’s emotional states peaks in your 40’s -50’s before it starts t decline.
National Academy of Science of the United States of America.
A new study published in 2020 found evidence that we as humans tend to hit our cognitive maximum around age 35. We then remain there until about age 45, at which point we start a long, slow decline.
The study does note that “Not all mental abilities decline at the same time”
“crystallized intelligence” which is defined as “tasks based on experience and accumulated knowledge” are found to continue increasing until at least age 50.
HOWEVER, by age of 45, we are not gaining enough “crystallized experience” to make up for the continued loss of other “fluid intelligence”.
According to Harvard Medical, some brain functions become weaker with age, while other brain functions actually improve.
The hippocampus area of the brain shrinks in size over time and nerve fibers wear down. This aging process slows the speed of communication between brain neurons. Some brain receptors may not function as well as they once did which can affect your ability to encode new information and retrieve old information.
HOWEVER, the branching of connections between distant brain areas strengthen. These changes enable the aging brain to capture the big picture, and understanding the global implications of specific issues.
Science Daily / University of Virginia
A study in 2009 conducted by the University of Virginia and published on Science daily found that “some aspects of age-related cognitive decline begin in healthy, educated adults when they are in their 20s and 30s,” said Timothy Salthouse, a University of Virginia professor of psychology.
Dr. Salthouse and his team found that average memory declines can be detected by about age 37.
However, and similar to other studies, the study also found that “accumulated knowledge”, such as vocabulary and general knowledge, actually increase at least until the age of 60 before decline starts.
These are all different studies from different parts of the country at different time periods and they all point to the same results.
On average, by age 45 your cognitive ability will very slowly start to decline. However, your ability to increase vocabulary and connect “big picture” concepts can still increase until about age 60.
Politicians Have “Minimum” Ages, Why Not “Maximum” ?
When the founding fathers wrote the constitution, there was a bit of debate over the minimum age limit for the presidency. Ultimately they settled on a minimum age of 35 for the president, 30 for members of the Senate, and a minimum age of 25 for members of the House.
The thought behind this was based on personal experiences of the founding fathers, realizing that their own opinions were not mature enough yet to see the “bigger picture”.
James Madison also believed that a minimum age of 35 for the president would make it difficult for a father to hand the presidency over to his son. Basically, James was trying to avoid a Dynasty.
But when the founding fathers wrote the constitution in 1776, the average persona didn’t live past age 50, and brain studies on cognitive decline were unheard of.
So the idea of a maximum age limit didn’t even cross their minds.
However today, the average life expectancy in over 80 years old, giving plenty of politicians opportunities to take office well past their “cognitive prime”.
Political Age Limits Are Nothing New
The idea of a political age limit is nothing new. It’s not a new radical idea but something that’s actually already been implemented in numerous countries around the world and even right here in the united states.
In over 70% of the states, judges are required to retire at a certain age. The age differs in every state, but the average age of mandatory retirement is around 70 years old. This age makes sense as it matches the data of cognitive decline that we saw above.
The average age of political leaders around the world are trending younger and younger, but here in the United States we’re trending older & older.
What About A Cognitive Test For Politicians (With Public Results)
The general data seems pretty clear that the AVERAGE human starts seeing cognitive decline in middle age, which really starts advancing after age 70.
However, EVERY INDIVIDUAL IS DIFFERENT.
Some people get Alzheimers at age 60, and some 80 year olds still run billion dollar companies.
So instead of a “overall age limit” would a cognitive test make sense? Many high level officials believe it would. Cognitive testing would give voters an ultimate look at the ability (or lack there of) of the politicians that are representing the best interest of the people.
Getting elected to political office has become a popularity contest, and the qualifications of the candidates has taken a backseat. This can only work against the best interest of the overall population. But with cognitive testing, it would bring the best (and sharpest) candidates (from both sides) to the front of the line.
Cognitive testing is not the same as IQ testing.
Most politicians would probably be against cognitive testing because it might embarrass them if their poor results became public. However, politicians work for us, so it doesn’t matter as much what they want. What matters is what makes logical sense in the best interest of the people.
Given the data that we have about aging and cognitive decline, a baseline cognitive test would absolutely be in the best interest of the people.
No one want to get older, no one wants to admit that they’re not as “sharp” as they once were, but it’s just a fact of life that as we age, our brains loose power.
The data is clear from a multitude of studies that brain function declines slowly over time starting around ages 30-40.
There is data that shows “big picture” understanding still improves until about age 60. This is critical and certainly a trait that we’d want in our political leaders. But, the gain in “big picture understanding” is not enough to make up for the decline in other areas.
That’s not to say, that after age 70, you have to move to Florida and retire. There’s still the need to non-elected political advisers, executives, and private leaders.
But ultimately It’s in the best interest, of the most people, to have our world leaders be in their cognitive prime.
The only real way to know for sure that our leaders are fully mentally fit and able to handle the responsibilities required of them is to require mandatory “baseline” cognitive tests for all political offices.
Let me know your thoughts.
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