Advertisment

Rethinking Age and Leadership: The Importance of Cognitive and Physical Health

In the face of a rapidly aging population, doctors Louise Aronson and Teva Brender are challenging the notion that age should be a determining factor in choosing leaders. They argue that cognitive and physical health are crucial considerations, but chronological age alone is not a reliable indicator of leadership ability. This shift in perspective is particularly relevant in the context of the 2024 US presidential election, where two frontrunners are nearing or exceeding the age of 80.

author-image
Bijay Laxmi
New Update
Rethinking Age and Leadership: The Importance of Cognitive and Physical Health

Rethinking Age and Leadership: The Importance of Cognitive and Physical Health

In the face of a rapidly aging global population, two doctors, Louise Aronson and Teva Brender, are challenging the notion that age should be a determining factor in choosing leaders. They argue that cognitive and physical health are crucial considerations, but chronological age alone is not a reliable indicator of leadership ability.

Advertisment

The Age Paradox

As the world grapples with the implications of an aging population, the question of age and leadership has taken center stage. Aronson and Brender, both medical professionals, contend that the prevalent practice of equating age with decline is not only misguided but also discriminatory.

The COVID-19 pandemic has starkly illuminated this issue, with older adults bearing the brunt of the disease. Despite over 900,000 deaths among seniors, efforts to enhance care quality for them have stalled, prompting healthcare professionals to decry the intensified prejudice against older adults during the pandemic.

Advertisment

This bias against aging, they argue, is rooted in society's fear of growing old and the desire to remain youthful. To combat this, experts advocate for integration and valuing the contributions of older adults.

Ageism in the Workplace

The pervasive problem of ageism extends beyond healthcare to the workplace. According to an AARP report, nearly two-thirds of adults over 50 believe older workers face discrimination, with 90% considering ageism widespread.

Advertisment

The 65 and older workforce has quadrupled in size since the mid-1980s, with nearly a quarter of the workforce now being 55 or older. Ageism can express itself in various forms, including negative evaluations, layoff threats, buyout offers, demotions, and pay cuts, often impacting workers during their peak earning years in their 40s and early 50s.

Federal protections against age discrimination begin at 40, yet society still clings to an outdated idea of when it is appropriate for someone to retire. This disconnect between societal attitudes and the changing labor market landscape contributes to the persistence of ageism.

Leadership and Age

Advertisment

The debate over age and leadership is particularly relevant in the context of the upcoming 2024 US presidential election. Two frontrunners, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, are nearing or exceeding the age of 80, raising concerns about their mental and physical fitness.

However, experts argue that chronological age does not necessarily reflect biological age. There is vast variation in how people age, and while cognitive abilities peak in our 30s and gradually decline over time, certain crystallized abilities, such as vocabulary and knowledge of how to do things, improve with age.

Mixing up names or having difficulty retrieving names is not necessarily unusual as we get older and does not necessarily indicate a broader problem with cognition or memory. A diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment is made clinically when cognitive difficulties become frequent and fall outside what is considered normal aging.

Advertisment

Assessing cognition can be challenging, even for doctors, and requires thorough investigation. Therefore, Aronson and Brender suggest that cognitive and physical health, rather than age, should be the determining factors when choosing leaders.

As Aronson poignantly states, "Ageism is a form of discrimination that can prevent qualified individuals from being considered for important roles. Older leaders can bring valuable experience and wisdom to their positions."

In this era of unprecedented demographic change, it is crucial to reevaluate our attitudes towards aging and leadership. By focusing on cognitive and physical health instead of age, we can create a more inclusive and equitable society that values the contributions of all its members, regardless of age.

Advertisment
Advertisment