The NYTs asked a series of questions of 12 seniors covering aging, ageism, and their views on life in America today (Wednesday, April 12, 2023).
It is estimated that 17% of 332 million Americans are over the age of 70 today (56.4 million). In 2021, the “Boomer Generation” (born between 1946 and 1964) represented 21.16% of the total population (71.1 million) and Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012) represented 20.67% of the total population (68.6 million).
I asked myself the same questions asked of the 12 seniors. My responses are below. Here is the link to the NYTs piece – a focus group with 12 Americans ages 71 to 88
What do you hope will be better for Gen Z than it was for your generation?
That Gen Z will advocate for an era distinguished by an ethical standard higher than a “me-first” “survival of the fittest” mentality, that their politics across party lines will be based on what is best for the common good, and that an historically high number of the generation will vote in every election, that their financial wherewithal will be at least as solid as their parents’ economic standing and, hopefully, higher, and that they will continue to make progress addressing the concrete issues that plague America today (e.g. climate crisis, economic disparity between wealthy and poor, poverty and raising the minimum wage to $20/hr, human rights, cost of medical care and prescription drugs, hunger, homelessness, political polarization, restoration of the integrity of democratic institutions, anti-democratic gerrymandering and abolition of the Electoral College, statelessness of Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, criminal justice reform, legislation of Roe v Wade, etc. etc.).
Because you’re in your 70s or 80s, which decade of life would you say was or is your favorite?
I can’t choose. There were good and bad events in every decade. I experienced much creativity, a strong and loving marriage, the birth of sons and grandchildren, satisfaction in my professional life, and happiness in retirement. I’ve also experienced my share of disappointment, sadness, stress, illness, and the loss of family, mentors, and friends.
What would you say are the best things about getting older?
I like to think that I’m wiser and smarter than I once was. I love watching my sons grow and thrive, and being a grandpa (“Papa”).
What are some of the changes that have happened over the course of your lifetime that you’d say are for the better?
A dramatic advance of medicine, science, computer and communications technologies; an increased availability of information via the Internet; and far greater access to transportation and exposure to the arts.
Any other changes that have happened over your lifetime that you think are for the worse?
Rejection of science; climate crisis; out-of-control gun violence and right-wing refusal to legislate controls; growing intolerance of the “other;” balkanization of society; rise in racism, antisemitism, anti-Zionism, Islamophobia, homophobia, and misogyny; the crumbling of democratic institutions and the American two-party system brought about by MAGA ideologues, autocrats, and reactionaries.
Do you want to stay in your homes as long as possible? How likely do you think it is that you’ll be able to stay, and what are the factors you take into account when thinking about that question?
Yes. I love our home, neighborhood, and near-by family and friends. We’re close to where our kids live. If we’re no longer able to climb stairs in our home, care for our house and grounds, or if our health fails us, we’d consider moving.
Do you ever feel isolated or lonely where you are?
No. I’m active with causes I care about, and I continue to learn, read, and write. I use Zoom, Skype, and Face-time to stay connected with friends and colleagues around the country, in Israel, and around the world, and I see friends in our city. I enjoy my alone time and feel fortunate to have a resilient and loving marriage and close relationships with our sons, grandchildren, and a number of dear friends.
Right now, the official full retirement age is somewhere between 65 and 70, according to the government, depending on what year you were born. What do you think about that?
I think this is an arbitrary and unnecessary standard. Many people love their work and are capable of delivering competently well into their 80s. Those not so able ought to retire – if they can afford to do so. Younger people ought to plan financially for retirement starting in their early 30s at the latest while developing interests that will engage and sustain them in their senior years after retirement.
Do you think that Social Security will exist as a program when your grandchildren retire?
I certainly hope so. The country can’t afford for it to collapse, and policies have to be passed by Congress to sustain it or we’ll sink into a pre-Great Depression era without a social safety net.
How do you think Medicare is doing these days?
Medicare is an amazing program and should be extended to every age group over time. It’s beyond my pay-grade, however, to know how Social Security and Medicare ought to be fully funded to assure long-term solvency. The answer is not privatization, however.
Do you think that politicians care about the needs of American voters in their 70s and 80s?
Most Democratic Party office holders seem to care. The MAGA Republican Party, however, does not as these politicians are preoccupied fighting culture wars that diminish personal freedoms and waste everyone’s (and the media’s) time and treasure. Many traditional conservatives seem to care.
When you’re evaluating candidates to vote for, do you think more or less favorably about candidates who are around your age?
I tend to trust liberal politicians of any age and don’t place any trust in MAGA politicians. My evaluation of candidates is dependent on their policy positions, moral fiber, character, courage, and their propensity to act according to what’s best in the common interest and for the most vulnerable in American society.
How do you think being in your 70s and 80s affects your ability to be in office, generally? Is it a benefit, a disadvantage? Does it have no effect?
I have concluded that young wise people grow into old wise people, young fools grow into old fools, morally principled young people grow into morally principled old people, and morally weak young people grow into morally weak old people. The challenge is to determine who is morally strong and wise, who continually learn and are open to adjusting their policy priorities to changing circumstances and demands, who learn from history, and who do what is best for the most vulnerable in society. It’s irrelevant to me what age politicians and office holders reach if they still have their wits and act according to high moral and intellectual standards.
We have now a presidential candidate running, Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, and she’s proposed that those who run for office should have to pass a cognition test if they’re over the age of 75. What do you think about the idea?
This suggestion is ageist as it presumes that every senior is diminished intellectually and capacity to serve to the same extent. It is also the answer to the wrong question. The right question ought to be based on the state of one’s intellectual and moral capacities to serve.
Do you think that there should be a maximum age limit for being elected to office?
President Biden is currently 80. Do you think his age is a benefit for him or a disadvantage?
A benefit – mostly. He does NOT seem to be diminished intellectually. He has a strong moral compass, is a natural empath, and has been a very good President with the help of skilled non-corruptible staff, and (in the first two years) a Democratic Congress led by Leaders Pelosi and Schumer. Biden is experienced, wise, and competent in international and domestic affairs, and though not a perfect candidate, he has done well and restored dignity to the Oval Office.
Former President Donald Trump is 76 years-old. Do you see his age as an issue, either as a benefit or a disadvantage, regarding his campaign for president in 2024?
This is the wrong question. The right question is whether Trump is morally, psychologically, intellectually, and legally fit to be president again – the answer is a resounding NO!
How would you feel about a rematch between Biden and Trump for president in 2024?
Very very anxious – but I have confidence that Biden will win re-election (assuming that the percentage of those who vote is very high especially among peoples of color and young people) and send Trump out to pasture once and for all (or he’ll be in federal prison on multiple corruption convictions). Hopefully, Trumpism will fade as responsible conservatives reject MAGA-Republicanism and rebuild a pro-Constitutional conservative political party and restore the two-party system, an important check-and-balance element in American politics.
What things do you hope will be better for Gen Z than for your generation?
I hope Gen Z will approach its challenges with a measure of humility, give credit to preceding generations that made progress, learn American and world history, and expose themselves to great literature, art, music, and the tenets of world religions. Doing so will afford greater perspective, appreciation for nuance and complexity in human affairs, and instill the sensitivity necessary to address effectively America’s existential challenges. I hope as well that Gen Zs do not become cynical. And I hope they will be activists for good causes and vote in every election.
Harriett Bay said:
Sent from my iPhone
Harriett Bay said:
Please let me know when we can meet