[DEBATE] Should there be an age limit to run for office?

An exploration of the debate surrounding maximum age limits for elected officials.
[DEBATE] Should there be an age limit to run for office?
Would be beneficial

Candidates running for office are getting older, with the current Congress being the third-oldest Congress since the founding of the U.S., and this has sparked concerns among Americans. Seeing the people who lead this country have apparent freeze-ups in interviews demonstrates how politicians’ ages have affected their capability to lead this country. For example, many voters agree that 81-year-old Mitch McConnell’s age limits his ability to deliver efficient responses in an interview.

First of all, many Americans want age limits for politicians. According to a CBS News poll, 73% of Americans support a maximum age limit for elected officials — a sentiment shared across party lines, with 75% of Republicans and 71% of Democrats supporting an age limit for Congress members. Americans want to see themselves represented in their politicians, and with the median age in Congress being almost 20 years greater than the median age of Americans, many younger Americans feel as though their interests are neglected.

64-year-old Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy, a strong proponent of age limits for Congress members and also a gastroenterologist, claims that once people reach a certain age — typically around age 80 — rapid bodily decline begins. As a doctor, Cassidy is concerned about the effect of age on competency in Congress, where many senators and representatives are over 80 years old.

The effects of bodily decline are most noticeable in the brain. According to Harvard Medical School, certain brain areas, like the hippocampus, shrink in size as the brain ages. Additionally, the myelin sheath that protects nerve fibers wears down, which slows communication between neurons. This can affect one’s ability to remember new information and retrieve information that’s already in storage, perhaps explaining McConnell’s interview freezes.

While it’s true that Congress benefits from the experience and insight of the older generation, it’s even more important that elected offices are filled with people of many different ages and generations. By enacting a reasonable age limit, probably somewhere around age 70, the entrenched seat faction in Congress would likely be reduced. With their political influence and large campaign funding, incumbents tend to have a strong advantage over challengers, and age limits would bar many veteran congress members, such as McConnell or Nancy Pelosi, from reelection.

In order to increase competition for seats in Congress and promote the election of younger candidates, it is necessary to enact an age limit for elected officials. An age limit seems to be one of the only things that Republicans and Democrats can actually agree on, so let’s give the people what they want.

Unnecessary and discriminatory

Elected officials are growing older as the years go by, and as a result, voters may worry that they can no longer competently represent American interests. However, this fails to acknowledge that seniors are often more respected, can work at the same level as younger people and are more reliable. 

While many people may think that older people are usually more unhealthy and vulnerable than younger people, this isn’t necessarily true. Anna Tudar, a 75-year-old fitness teacher at the Ridgedale YMCA in Minnetonka, exemplifies how older age doesn’t necessarily matter if it doesn’t impact work ethic. So, although Tudar is older, that doesn’t mean she struggles more with certain things than younger people.

It may seem like older officials only care about helping old people, but that is not the case. For example, the Kosa bill, introduced by Richard Blumenthal, a 77-year-old senator, was recently passed to protect minors from harmful content on social media platforms. This shows that not only do older elected officials look out for their own generation, but they also look out for younger folks.

Also, maximum age limits would inevitably remove political power from voters. If age limits were enacted, voters would be unable to elect experienced and influential politicians of their choice simply because the politician’s age surpasses that of the limit. 

Setting an arbitrary age limit would ignore the fact that chronological age is different from biological age. In other words, not everyone ages at the same rate, and an age limit fails to understand that age is not necessarily correlated to competency. 

Age limits also inevitably promote age discrimination, and because of this, may be illegal. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act specifically forbids discrimination against adults over 40. In this regard, barring individuals over a certain age from office is arguably unlawful.

It is often claimed that older politician’s competency depreciates as they age, but this is not necessarily true. According to Harvard Medical School, some functions of the brain actually improve with age as the branching of dendrites increases and connections between brain areas strengthen. These changes improve the brain’s ability to detect relationships between diverse sources of information, capture the big picture and understand the global implications of specific issues, which are undeniably important to the job of congress members.

Finally, it is simply unrealistic that an effective age limit will ever be enacted. To get such an amendment passed would require either a two-thirds majority in the Senate and the House or a national convention called for by a two-thirds vote from state legislatures, and it would need to be ratified by three-fourths of states. 

Ultimately, age should never be the only factor that determines one’s ability to perform their job, and it is necessary to recognize the potential harm of trying to impose an age limit in Congress. 

About the Contributors
Elijah Mattfield, Staff Reporter
Elijah is a junior staff reporter, and this year is his first year on The Viewer.
Tonie Torboh, Staff Reporter
Tonie is a junior staff reporter, and this year is his first year on The Viewer.
Charlotte Krum, Good Questions Editor
Hi! My name is Charlotte, and I’m a senior. This is my second year with The Viewer. I’m very excited to be an illustrator and the Good Question Editor 2023-2034 school year! I enjoy playing tennis, figure skating, drawing and listening to music.
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