The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News


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COLUMN: Octogenarians and optics 

Dan Hahn
Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

There is a headline from a recent edition of The Morning Brew Newsletter that reads “The new Rolling Stones album makes 80 look good” – the article shines light on the fact that the legendary rock band The Rolling Stones are still working, much like other people their age. 

Young people may be surprised to know that the makeup of the American workforce is getting much older, indicating that their careers may span several decades longer than they ever dreamed possible. 

The article reports that “650,000 Americans over 80 were still working, up 18% from the previous decade.” I could not help but think about how these trends can be seen in our politics.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel, who is 81 years old, has frozen at the podium during press conferences twice in recent news. Once in July and again earlier this month.

These alarming health incidents have called into question his ability to lead, and even members of his own party are insisting he resign. 

Yet, The Rolling Stones never seem to stand still, continuing to tour and release new music as if they were in their prime, and perhaps they are.

There is also the matter of Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic senator from California who has also been battling illness in old age. The 90-year-old senator was absent from her seat for a significant duration this year and many in her party called for her resignation.

The president of the United States, Joe Biden, is now 80 years old, and is running for re-election. He will be 86 years old when he completes his second term, that is, should he win the 2024 election and serve for four years. 

Donald Trump, the top Republican contender to oppose Biden is age 77, and he will also be in his eighties by the time his second term ends, should he win the 2024 presidential election.

Now, I believe in respecting our elders, and octogenarians such as those named above deserve respect whether they are retired, rock stars, or lawmakers. 

Ageism is discrimination against someone based solely by their age and is a real-world phenomenon that I may be guilty of committing in this column.

When it comes to octogenarians working, I think the question we need to ask ourselves is if they are doing their job well and if they are instilling confidence in the people they serve. 

Political pundits will argue whether or not Biden has been an effective president. Fans of The Rolling Stones will debate the strength of their live performances and the quality of their upcoming album (“Hackney Diamonds” is set to release on October 20th).

Biden has tripped and stumbled on stage, fallen off a bicycle, and is routinely taking “the short stairs” to board Air Force One

Optics matter when someone is under constant public scrutiny, especially if that someone is aging into their eighties and aspiring to hold on to public office. That age must be tough regardless of career. 

Age will play the biggest factor in 2024, not any of the conventional political issues that have historically held sway over previous elections.

I am now in my forties, and I know from personal experience that it is increasingly difficult to appear younger than I am. 

As superficial as it may seem, when it comes time to elect the next president, voters will want to have confidence in the youthfulness of their chosen candidate.

The optics of age–not competency nor job performance–will likely be the deciding factor upon which the next president will be elected. 

Dan Hahn can reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.

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Dan Hahn, Columnist
Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 581-2812.

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