The Democratic primary debates for the 2020 election have already begun, and our nation’s elderly population is facing an unprecedented situation that includes a number of historic firsts related to their age. Never before has the largest voting demographic in the country been its generation of retired and senior citizens like our patients at the Bronx Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing. This has allowed the Baby Boom generation the level of superior political power that they’ve never been without and that’s never been enjoyed by the generations immediately before or immediately after them.
By either result or coincidence, this comes at the same time that the upcoming presidential race is experiencing an unprecedented phenomenon. President Donald Trump, who is currently 72 years old, was the oldest President ever elected in the United States. That may seem like an anomaly until we consider that three of the four current leaders among Democratic primary candidates are also all over 70 years old. Obviously, the election of any of those three or the reelection of President Trump would set a new high water mark for the oldest President elected.
Their voting power and the potential election of a President their own age may set the stage for a focus on senior-related issues on a level heretofore unseen. The race is barely in its infant stages, and already Medicare, universal medicine, and prescription drug costs are some of the hottest topics of conversation. This shift is arguably justified, as the nation is currently facing the approach of a historically large elderly population that’s living longer and with more medical assistance than ever before.
In the long run, this is perhaps the political shot in the arm the country needs in order to advance elder care and issues that specifically affect the aging. The generation behind the Baby Boomers, called Generation X, is smaller than the upcoming Millennial generation, meaning that in a few decades voting power will once again leave the hands of the retired generation and return to the control of middle-aged adults. If attention to elder issues isn’t maximized in the near future, it may be a number of decades before those issues attract this level of attention again.