Pope Benedict is three years younger than Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who's puttering around condemning the very idea of Cory Booker running against him....Weigel mixes 2 topics: the individual's decision to continue despite age and infirmity and the way the media (and the rest of us) "play along." Nothing about what the Pope is doing changes the playing along part of it. We've come to believe that age discrimination is wrong, and we've allowed that to mean too much.
[C]overage of Lautenberg... high-fives him for his vigor. A recent Philadelphia Inquirer story pointed out that the senator had returned from "a cold that became the flu" and was "wielding a cane -- which he insisted he didn't really need," but otherwise focused on his "feistiness."
Age discrimination isn't like race discrimination! Age takes a toll on people and it matters and affects their performance. A specific individual may be doing relatively well for his age, and we ought to see him as an individual, but age matters. Statutory law prohibiting age discrimination tells us not to take age into account in some situations, but that doesn't include electoral politics. Feel free to boldly assail Lautenberg for clinging to his Senate seat. (And feel free to criticize judges who seem to be hanging on too long, especially Supreme Court Justices.)
Is the Pope any help here? He waited until he was 85 to step down. And he began the onerous work when he was nearly 80. The previous Pope — immensely admired — made a point of sticking with the job through a long, painful decline. I think both of these Popes encourage people to keep going and not to cede the work to the less old.