So you’re considering caucusing & voting for a candidate 70 or older?


COOPER, Iowa, Nov. 25, 2019 – For those of you who are seriously thinking you might caucus and vote for Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren or any other presidential candidate age 70 and older, really, you should know better.

I was contemplating that over the weekend after seeing that my friends Tom and Christie Vilsack have endorsed former Vice-President Biden, who is 77. Tom Vilsack is the former Iowa Governor and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, and Christie Vilsack is the former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack & former congressional candidate.

The Vilsacks, I harrumphed to myself, should know better.

But maybe they don’t, you know?

I mean, Tom is 68 and Christie is 69. They haven’t been in their 70s yet. They don’t really know what it’s like.


The Vilsacks’ candidate former Vice-President Joe Biden has been around a long time. (Photo is from

In fact, there are millions of potential voters out there who have never been in their 70s and who seem unconcerned that this is the oldest field of presidential candidates ever. From what the polls tell us, a whole lot of them are about ready to commit to President Trump, who is 73; Senator Sanders, 78; Biden or Senator Warren, 70.

These septuagenarians may look pretty good on TV, interviews or in print ads. But how long did they spend in make-up before the cameras arrived? How many nips and tucks have they had? Has anybody seen them before they’ve had their first coffees of the morning?

I think it’s time for those of us who do know what it’s like being 70 or more to offer our insights to the younger folks. And so with this column, I am convening the “Not So Super 70s Truth Squad.” If you are 70 or above – or you have helpful observations from dealing with parents or grandparents who are in this age range – then tell us “what to expect from those 70 & above.” You can add your answers in comments at the end of this column, or you can email them to me directly at

I’ll get this started with some personal details.

The problem with electing someone president who is in their 70s, as I told some high school students in Storm Lake recently, is that you’re electing somebody who is at least somewhat like me.

I’m 72, and much of my outlook on life is shaped by the fact that I’m just so damned glad still to be here.

That’s not so bad in itself, but it also means I’m much softer and more emotional than I used to be. Church hymns, fight songs, alma maters and good country songs make me cry.

Sometimes I think I’m too satisfied. I work hard at not being too defensive about the way things are, but I do find myself being suspicious when big changes are proposed.

I realize my values were set in very different times – before the internet and social media, back when everybody went to church, also when Republicans and Democrats were more moderate.

That’s all pretty general. Let’s get more specific about what 70-plus-year-olds are like, based on my experience:

–You learned to type on manual typewriters.

–You can remember when rock ’n’ roll started, but you don’t know a single Top Ten song of today.

–You can remember your family’s telephone number before there were dial phones.

–Your hair is thinning everywhere but your eyebrows, which if you let them go natural, would make you look like Garrison Keillor.

–You must take naps

–You have to write a lot of notes to yourself.

–When you’re asked by someone “Who is your doctor?” you answer, “Which one?”

–Your dermatologist, noting several harmless spots, says, “Congratulations! You’ve reached an age where you have a few barnacles.” And you’re happy for that.

–And you have a first-names friendship with your pharmacist.

–You have a plastic box with day-by-day compartments for all the pills you take, and you also keep a written schedule of what order and times you take those pills.

–Guys in their 70s have separate containers for their Blue Pills.

–You have to get up several times in the night.

–You find yourself wanting to wear white socks most of the time.

–It pisses you off when professional and college sports teams wear “throwback uniforms,” because you thought they were all still wearing those uniforms.

–You’re still tempted to say that something neat is “groovy.”

–You have trouble remembering the difference between “Gen X’ers” and “Millenials.”

–Flatulence isn’t nearly as funny as it used to be.

–You tell others your age that Elizabeth Warren reminds you of “Granny” on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” and they get it.

–You still think black & white saddle shoes are cool.

You want a president like that?

(As I was going over this list with my mother-in-law Sue Burt, who is 84, she said: “It gets worse in your 80s.” But that wouldn’t be until the second term for Biden and Sanders.)

Now, over to you readers: From your own experience or observations, what’s it like being 70 or more, like four of the leading candidates for president are?

You can email the columnist at or comment using the handy form below here.

13 thoughts on “So you’re considering caucusing & voting for a candidate 70 or older?

  1. Your stamina and energy are not near the level of your 50s and 60s, let alone anytime prior. Your attention span can be shortened and your mind wanders. You just aren’t as sharp as you were in your younger years.

    Barb Madden-Bittle, Des Moines

  2. “Flatulence isn’t nearly as funny as it used to be.” Depends on the origin. If mine, not so funny. If somebody else, that could be funny, really funny if the little toot emanates from the authority figure in the room. Speaking of “depends,” the word has only one meaning for the young. Happy Thanksgiving, Carla and Chuck.

    Bill Hamilton, Des Moines

  3. Knowing that I am 70+ as you, Chuck, I have to add a positive note to this “not so super 70s Truth Squad” you have brought to the forefront. I heard something the other day that I must share with you that may be of some consequence. These younger folks (Millenials) have never experienced this great country when it was not prosperous! In other words, they have nothing to compare to their mindset. Just a thought, my friend.

    Dennis Hackett, Florida

  4. Taking a nap almost every weeknight between 10 and 11:30 p.m. I know I can watch Colbert snd Meyers the next day, but during the impeachment hearings I couldn’t wait to see how they slammed Trump. Getting pissed when Jeopardy has too many pop culture categories. Sometime after the Eurythmics, I lost interest in most rock music. Baseball is too sloooow for me, although I make exceptions for the VandyBoys in the playoffs.
    I still am a techno fool. I learned one way to write and send my column snd one back-up. That was all the time I had on deadline. Anything else, I called the tech guys. Now my kids are the tech guys and ladies.

    Bill Livingston, retired sports columnist, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland OH

  5. I turned 74 last Monday. No way am I voting for anyone in their 70s. I am voting for Pete purely on age. To read this column I had to decide which of four pairs of glasses to use.

    Art Seaman, Kittanning, PA

  6. Hi, Chuck. Great column and observations. I feel like I am a young 72, but I wouldn’t want someone in their 70s leading our country. All of the things you said are so true and especially about the notes we have to write ourselves to remember the things that just came so naturally to us at a younger age. Why do these 70s-something people even want to lead our country at their age? Aren’t 70-year-olds supposed to be slowing down and letting the younger people have a chance to lead? It is kind of scary to think that all of these people think they would be outstanding at being our president. I believe we people who are now experiencing our 70s are more concerned about having a president our age than younger people may be! Listen to us folks, we are here!

    Jack Lashier, Des Moines

  7. Chuck Grassley, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Willie Nelson, Louis Farrakhan and David McCallum were all born in 1933, are now 86 years of age and still engaged in their life’s work, or maybe life’s mischief depending (there’s that word) on your point of view. Maybe old age is much more dependent on the person than on the date of their birth certificate. Don’t forget Grandma Moses,she began to paint at age 76. She took up painting because arthritis had crippled her hands so that she no longer could embroider.

    Bill Hamilton, Des Moines

  8. I’m in my mid-50s, but my mom is in her late 70s and my dad is in his late 80s. I notice with my mom that she tends to forget which kid she told something to (she has five kids), so sometimes I will hear the same thing about twice. She has health issues which slow her down. My dad has more serious health issues and dementia, so I agree that I don’t want someone in their 70s in office. Yes, they might be active and such, but I’m still of the opinion that they are slower (no offense) and just not as “sharp” as they once were.

    Julie Belstene

  9. On the topic of flatulence, my wife has worked the past 20 years in a retirement community (it used to be O.K. to call them nursing homes). She tells of the common occurrence she calls “walking popcorn farts.” You get the picture, and so will everyone else as our Leader of the Free World pops his or her way to the podium for an address to the United Nations. Heck, I’m 58 and wonder if I’m too old to be… Umm, sorry, what was I talking about?

    Erich Kretzinger, Boone IA

  10. I have been saying recently that I don’t like the 70s. (I’m 72). I still work out several days a week but have had a torn meniscus (requiring surgery) and just don’t have the stamina I used to. I’m more forgetful and have to keep a to-do list. Words sometimes don’t come. I still consider myself healthy but have had several friends pass away recently without warning. I will not vote for a 70-plus-year-old candidate — Democrat or Republican.

    Karen Chesshire Ray, Florida

  11. Having just completed cardiac rehab, my afternoon nap, two days of listening and a frustrating hour learning how much I don’t know or understand about my iPhone or current technology at the hand of my 21-year-old engineering student granddaughter, this post certainly is on point. As a former 32-year-old state representative, I may have forgotten how the 1972 young class of state legislators worked with a young moderate Republican governor to make the State of Iowa a better place. We need to trust that the next generations can and will make the world a better place given the chance. Our place is to be elder statesmen ready to help, step aside, and help them succeed.  To Biden, Sanders, Warren, Streyer, Bloomberg, and other senior statesmen candidates or would-be candidates, get out of the way and put your money, contributions and experience to work helping the next generation candidates form responsible collaborative democratic policies that will bind up the wounds of this nation and the world.

    Ed Bittle, Des Moines

  12. “Your hair is thinning everywhere but your eyebrows, which if you let them go natural, would make you look like Garrison Keillor.” INSERT: “You know who Garrison Keillor is.” LOL LOL

    Brad Mariska, Farmington, MN

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