John O'Connor
John O’Connor

I can empathize with those who shy away from politics. It can be a dreadful, messy and sometimes filthy business. So I understand.

But if you happen to be running a senior living organization, ignoring politics is a luxury you can ill afford. For, like it or not, politicians have held — and will continue to hold — a disproportionate amount of control over your professional well-being.

Remember who approved COVID-19 loans and related support for businesses and workers? Congress. Who determines Medicaid amounts and other forms of government assistance? Those same politicians.

Who passes new laws that restrict or enhance your ability to function in the marketplace? Ditto.

And by all indications, we are in for one of the most crazy, sleazy and perhaps monumental election seasons of all time.

Both chambers of Congress are in play.

And then there’s the White House. Beyond policy considerations, the age of the leading candidates — Joe Biden and Donald Trump — demands attention. Barring unforeseen developments, it’s a fairly safe bet one of them will be sworn in again as president next January.

The first thing that strikes you about both men is how old they are. Joe Biden, 81, was the oldest-ever elected president. And he clearly has aged during this term. These days, he seems to shuffle more than walk. Far more troubling is that he clearly struggles to recall some fairly basic facts, as a special counsel’s report examining the mishandling of classified documents makes clear.

Nor is Donald Trump a spring chicken. He will be 78 when the election takes place. That’s older than Ronald Reagan was when he finished his second term. And it’s fairly well known that the Gipper was showing clear signs of dementia while still in office.

Both Trump and Biden have been struggling lately when it comes to remembering names, faces and other facts. Trump recently confused Nicky Haley for Nancy Pelosi. Biden twice seemed to indicate that dead European leaders — François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl — are still on the job.

Some may counter that those slip-ups don’t really talk to either man’s judgment, particularly in a time of crisis. The fact that both are showing memory lapses with increased regularity, however, is more than a little troubling.

To be fair, it should be noted that both men are in remarkably good health for their age. Still, the reality remains that they are advancing in years. And most senior living operators know all too well how quickly older people can deteriorate, be it mentally or physically.

By any measure, giving the world’s most demanding job to a person near or in his 80s is a dicey proposition. Regardless of who secures a second term, I’m hoping the winner successfully navigates the opportunities and challenges that come along.

Still, like millions of others, I will probably spend a considerable amount of time during the next four years wondering whether the president of the United States actually is capable of doing the job.

John O’Connor is editorial director for McKnight’s Senior Living and its sister media brands, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, which focuses on skilled nursing, and McKnight’s Home Care. Read more of his columns here.