Is Biden Too Old to Run Again? We Asked People Born on His Birthday.

From a Wall Street Journal story by Andrew Restuccia headlined “Is Biden Too Old to Run Again? We Asked People Born on His Birthday.:

Louise Smoczynski is enjoying a quiet retirement in Madison, Wis., but she and her friends are starting to have health problems. Ken Diller is a biomedical engineering professor in Austin, Texas, who has taught for 50 years and isn’t ready to spend his days relaxing on a beach.

They have one thing in common: They were born on Nov. 20, 1942, the same day as Joe Biden. The 46th president, the oldest to occupy the White House, is campaigning for a second term that, should he win, would put him in office until age 86.

These octogenarian voters are among nearly a dozen Americans born the same day as the president that The Wall Street Journal interviewed. They are uniquely suited to answer one of the biggest questions hanging over the 2024 election: Is Biden too old to run again?

Most said no. But they were candid about the risks of aging in the years to come.

“He has certainly got his wits about him,” said Smoczynski, a Democrat who voted for Biden in 2020 and plans to support him again.

Smoczynski said she and the president are at a cutoff age, “where once you’re 80, it’s definitely downhill.” She said she had been largely healthy most of her life, but was diagnosed about two years ago with endometrial cancer and continues to receive treatment for the illness.

“A lot of our friends are dying or getting dementia,” she said. “I probably shouldn’t bring that up because that makes 80 look terrible.” Still, she tries to maintain a positive attitude: “People are living longer and living better lives. Eighty is the new 60.”

A recent Wall Street Journal poll found that 73% of voters think Biden is too old to seek a second term, compared with 47% of voters who said the same of 77-year-old former President Donald Trump, who is likely to be Biden’s Republican opponent.

Many of those born the same day as Biden described busy lives that still include work. They expressed frustrations about being underestimated because of their age, contending that 80-year-olds today are healthier and more active than ever.

At the same time, some acknowledged they face regular reminders that age is taking its toll, citing health problems and restless sleep. About half of the 2.8 million Americans born in 1942 are still alive, federal data show.

“We’ve all declined, obviously. But you can still be pretty sharp,” said Earl Evans, a retired wine salesman who lives in St. Augustine, Fla. Like almost all of the other 80-year-olds in this story, Evans was already aware he was born the same day as the president when a Journal reporter, relying on public records, found and called him to discuss it.

“The smartest guy in the world could be 80, and it would be a damn shame to not have him in the White House,” said Evans, who is president of a local wine club and fills his days with trips to the gym and the beach.

But Evans also thinks the president isn’t as sharp as he used to be, and he raised concerns about his mental and physical health. A self-described “old-school conservative,” Evans voted for Trump in 2020 and he doesn’t think the former president is declining as rapidly as Biden. “It’s not so noticeable,” he said of Trump’s age.

Biden is part of a sliver of the Silent Generation whose lives unfolded at a fortuitous moment. By arriving just before the 1946 start of the baby boom, they were first in line for the economic spoils of the post-World War II era, including cheap homes and educations, a rapid expansion of the federal safety net, paternalistic employers that provided generous pensions and game-changing advances in medical care.

That has allowed them to amass power and wealth at levels unmatched by those born before and after them. “They essentially won the birth lottery,” William Emmons, a former economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, said of Americans born in the early 1940s.

During the 30-year period from 1989 to 2019, people born in the 1940s accumulated more wealth than generations that came before or after them at the same ages, according to a Congressional Budget Office report released last year.

Those born in the early 1940s also benefited from the relatively low birthrates of the previous decade. “When there are fewer people you’re competing with, all promotions come pretty easily,” said Dowell Myers, a professor at the University of Southern California.

Every president who served over the past three decades, with the exception of Barack Obama, was born in the 1940s, as were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Not every group in America had a smooth path back then. Women and minorities struggled through decades of discrimination. Some managed to succeed despite significant hurdles.

Charles Watkins, a retired mechanical-engineering professor who lives in Bergen County, N.J., and was born the same day as Biden, rose to the top of his field, graduating from Howard University in 1964 and going on to hold positions at Sandia National Laboratories, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

“I think that my generation in particular has seen a lot of changes in our society,” said Watkins, who is Black. “We’ve witnessed the evolution of our country.”

Biden often looks back fondly on a time in American history when working-class people could afford a comfortable life. Those his age say it is unlikely they could do the same thing today.

Carol DeLong, a retired church administrator from Southold, N.Y., who was born the same day as the president, said the apartment she and her husband rented shortly after they got married cost about $75 a month, including utilities, roughly $720 a month in today’s dollars. In 1968, the couple paid $15,000 for the colonial home DeLong still lives in with her tri-colored collie, Izzy. Today, the house is worth nearly $1 million.

“It’s just ridiculous what people are paying for houses now,” said DeLong, adding that some of her grandchildren are moving away because of the high cost of living.

Despite their greater financial security, many of the oldest Americans are opting to stay in the labor market. Roughly 650,000 Americans 80 and older were working last year, according to the Census Bureau, about 18% more than a decade earlier.

They include Ken Diller, a University of Texas biomedical-engineering professor in Austin. His research touches on the importance of sleep to a healthy life, which he thinks can make people more functional as they age. “I very much enjoy going to work and being productive,” he said.

John Bruno, also born the same day as Biden, sometimes works seven days a week as an orthopedist in Alexandria, Va., and sings in his free time. Eighty doesn’t feel that old to him, given that people are living longer these days.

Peter Holmes actually talked to Biden about the fact that they were born the same day when he spotted him outside a jewelry store in Nantucket, Mass., years ago. “How many people have the exact same birthday as you? Same day, Same year,” he shouted. Biden came over and talked to him for 10 or 15 minutes, and Holmes showed him his driver’s license to prove it. “That’s cool, man,” Holmes recalled Biden saying.

“He was extremely gracious and extremely personable, and even my wife, who should we say was somewhat of a Republican, was charmed,” Holmes said. The two men have talked several times on Biden’s subsequent trips to the island, he said.

These days, Holmes spends much of his time with a Nantucket social club, which meets six days a week at an old fisherman’s shanty on the island. His wife died in July from cancer after being on a ventilator for 29 days.

“I think there is something to be said about wisdom, and wisdom comes with age, for better or worse,” he said.

Despite enjoying his conversations with Biden, Holmes said he didn’t vote for him and probably won’t support him in 2024. His affection for Biden doesn’t overcome his conservative political beliefs.

Elisa Cho, Paul Overberg and Anthony DeBarros contributed to this article.

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