The Wisdom Of An Older President

Although mental performance can decline with age there are advantages to having older leaders that outweigh the aging process

Dr. Conor Hogan Ph.D.
4 min readMay 12, 2021

Mental performance declines with age but leadership doesn’t.

Yet you’d be shocked to hear that given the run-up to the 2020 US election. Because at times the competitors in the race were farcical. Two elderly men going against one another to get the hot seat in the White House. And their declarations of intent, opinions, their plans for the future, and reactions to certain questions were at times at odds with what great leadership should be.

Then again, if mental performance declines with age perhaps that’s to blame for the likes of these two politicians?

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But mental performance only declines if you stop using the brain and feeding it with the correct nutrients and exercises.

Sure if it’s aging the human brain, in general, will shrink in parts and this can affect learning and other mental processes. Blood flow may weaken and inflammation may result in injury or disease.

But that’s not always the case.

Because there are people in their eighties who have shown more verbose vocabularies, and a greater understanding of language than those even a lifetime younger than them.

And then there is the concept of neuro-plasticity.

Neuro-plasticity confirms that the human brain can create new neural connections and so stimulate electrical connections in other parts of the brain.

Essentially when the brain is nourishing and exercising itself it can stave off the effects of aging and perform at a very high level even when getting older. And that will maintain a high-performance level in leadership and mental agility when things become challenging.

If Donald Trump and Joe Biden, and other aging leaders challenged themselves and look after their aging brains they will be able to continue making informed decisions for themselves and others. Because after all, a leader must direct others decided upon by the thoughts they have chosen to dictate their actions.

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And so long as the aging brain is a healthy one leadership by older people can be a benefit to their followers.

Because with age wisdom also makes its entry into the mind of a leader.

For an older person, their instinct is heightened as they know when a big situation exists.

They’ve had decades of life behind them and have experienced making poor choices over better ones and learned from them. And they’ve made the right choices at times too.

With the wisdom of age, they are confident of their decisions that come to them easier than when they were younger.

And it’s not only the US that has put older presidential candidates to the fore and elected many aging presidents.

Because other countries have done the same.

I recall when Ireland elected Michael D. Higgins. It was 2011 and Higgins was 70 years of age. He was small, overweight, and bald. Having had a successful political career he was now the leader of my country.

But unlike many other democracies being the president in Ireland is not being the leader of the day to day government.

As there is a taoiseach or prime minister in Ireland who runs the Irish government the presidential position is more a representative role. But with that said representing a small nation that has less than 5 million people and is the baby of the European Union is a big job.

Because the large events and public engagements that the president of Ireland must be at are as big as the ones that any other president attends too.

So Higgins had to be mentally sharp in his role as TV cameras were rolling every time he was in the public eye.

And in Ireland being the president is a 7-year term and not only a 4-year role that it is in the US.

So by the time Michael D. Higgins was approaching his final years in his first term of presidency many people who had known him for many decades were happy with the years he had given to the role. No one expected that he’d want to do it again.

But he did.

And in 2018 he was given a second 7-year term as the president of Ireland that would bring him into his eighties. Of course, within a couple of years his leadership and decision-making were tested when the Covid-19 pandemic began and he needed to inspire the nation to stay calm and concentrated with so much going on.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

He did so by releasing one of his self-penned poems entitled ‘Take Care’.

In that poem he wrote:

In the journey to the light, the dark moments should not threaten.

Belief requires that you hold steady.”

And he encapsulated what the wisdom of a leader requires.

Not only that but he proved that although he was aging he was utilizing his brain in the way it requires to be used by continuing to create and use words that demand deep thinking and guidance.

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Dr. Conor Hogan Ph.D.

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