Well, now after the Iowa caucus in the New Hampshire primary the Democrats now have a geezer and a whippersnapper more or less tied as front runners for the nomination. Interesting dichotomy.
If Pete Buttigieg but were to be nominated and elected, he would be the youngest President ever. The closest rivals to that status were Theodore Roosevelt, 42, and John F. Kennedy, 43.
On the other hand, Bernie Sanders would be the oldest (at the time of his inauguration) President ever at age 79. Either Joe Biden, 78, or Elizabeth Warren, 71 (ages at the time of inauguration in 2021) would be the oldest. Note: Michael Bloomberg is also up there at 77. The incumbent, Donald Trump, currently holds that distinction. His closest rivals to that status were Ronald Reagan, 69, and William Henry Harrison, 68. Harrison, of course died within a month of his inauguration.
Both relative youth and age were once believed to be disqualifiers for office. The only constitutional qualifications for President are that one must be over 35, and a natural born citizen. During the 1960 election campaigns, a lot was made about Kennedy’s relative youth — he did not have enough experience to be a good President. That was found to be incorrect he did a pretty good job during the three years prior to his assassination. Theater Roosevelt also turned out to be an exceptionally effective chief executive.
While there is no constitutional constraint on an individual’s advanced age, there is a general perception that stamina and mental acuity diminish precipitously after the sixth decade of life. The incumbent, and the three potential septuagenarian challengers seem to belie that. It is true that of the two runners-up to oldest, one died shortly after taking office, and the other manifested Alzheimer’s disease after leaving office. Those may not be good examples because Harrison lived in a time when medicine was still primitive, and Alzheimer’s is a pathological condition not necessarily a consequence of aging.
At present, it looks likely that the Presidency will be in the hands of an individual who is the oldest or youngest occupant ever.
One aspect of this situation, not lost on everybody, is that there is a considerable generation gap between the ages. I do not buy most of the hype that is associated with the generation gap, at least the supposed differentiation that advertisers like to tout outside of nuclear or extended families. Nevertheless, individuals in the 45 to 70 year span of ages, appear to be left out of consideration for the Presidency. At least this time around.
May we live in interesting times.