Happy birthday to Joe Biden! After a hectic week at the G20 summit in Bali and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Thailand, the president turns 80 on November 20. Their responses have been edited for length and clarity.
‘Buy yourself a life’
Tom Freudenheim is 85 and “does not have a paid job” – a status he would like to see President Biden adopt. It’s not because the retired museum administrator has political objections to the president. He just thinks it’s time for the guy to calm down.
“First of all, relax,” he said he would tell the president. “And, quote, have a life!”
Freudenheim said the president shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking he has to maintain his current pace or his office.
“The advantage of being old is that you don’t have to be as big as you used to be,” he said from the Manhattan home he shares with his wife, Leslie. “I love not having to show up anywhere other than my doctor’s appointments and lunch dates. I’m past my lifespan and I can handle that.
But Freudenheim also doesn’t think a more laid-back life should be devoid of responsibilities. A powerful person in the 80s – say, the leader of the free world – should mentor the young people and let them take the limelight.
“If you’ve done something your whole life that you care about, you should care about it continuing, even if you’re not the one doing it,” he said. “If you monopolize the stage, it won’t happen.”
Many of his friends think stepping back is a descent, Freudenheim said. But for him, it’s a blessing. “You have to overcome the vanity of thinking you’re the only person in the world who can do your job, even though you think the world is going to fall apart.”
‘I want to quote from Satchel Paige’
Rabbi James Rudin88, and recently knighted by Pope Francis for his work on Jewish-Catholic relations, would have compelled Biden to consider Psalm 90 and Psalm 71. The latter reads: “Do not cast me out in old age; When my strength fails, do not forsake me.
How would Rabbi Rudin want Biden, a practicing Catholic, to interpret them?
“When you hit 80, you see the finish line coming,” he said from his home on Sanibel Island, Florida. “So every day is precious and you really have to ask yourself what are my values? What am I leaving behind for my friends and family?
“We have a limited horizon and we have to face it. It doesn’t mean you’re depressed; it means life’s journey ends sooner rather than later, so are you going to use your time wisely – what you should have been doing all your life.
This limited horizon should inspire people to make better choices, he said.
Rudin added an unbiblical addendum.
“So I want to quote a few Paige satchelhe said, referring to the great baseball star and member of the Negro Leagues Hall of Fame. “He said, ‘Never look back because they might win you over. Keep looking forward.
Grandchildren without parents
entrepreneur Howie Jacobs, who turns 89 next month, is quick to point out that he’s not retired, but makes magnetic picture frames. He has two words for the president: water volleyball.
“I’m in the pool three mornings a week,” he said from his 55-plus community in Clifton, New Jersey. “It’s a wonderful exercise and we do a lot of kibitzing. He should give it a try.
Jacobs and his wife of 42 years, Roz, are the head of a blended family of six children. “We were the first Brady Bunch,” he said. “We each had three children and a dog. The only thing we didn’t have was a housekeeper.
These children had children, and that leads to his second piece of advice: the president and Mrs. Biden should take a vacation with each of their grandchildren, one at a time. The Jacobs made it for each of their 14 grandchildren on their 10th birthday. They saw five national parks, various US cities and ventured into Canada.
“I don’t know how old Biden’s grandkids are, but having a week alone with each grandkid without their parents was an amazing experience,” he said. “They were just totally open with us.”
Next week, he’ll sit down for Thanksgiving with his whole family — all 36 of them. And that’s also what he wants for the president.
“That would be the #1 thing,” he said. “Enjoy your family. I wish that to everyone in the world.
“Go take a shower and have a drink”
Bernie Buzgon, 85, is an insurance attorney from Lebanon, Pennsylvania who still goes to the office, rides his bike and plays tennis three times a week. He also has a healthy appreciation for the zinger. “I have a very good memory for names,” he said. “What’s your name again?”
His advice for Biden is wrapped in a tennis metaphor — one that sounds suspiciously like a political recommendation: “It used to be that when you served the ball and the opponent gave you a bunt across the net, you would run and try to send it back across the net,” he said from his apartment in Sarasota, Florida.
“But I think when you’re 80 you have to think, ‘Forget it. Let it bounce. Let it roll.
In other words, “you can’t do what you used to do anymore. You have to understand that,” he said. “Go take a shower and have a drink.”
And one more thing: “After 80, don’t complain about the aches and pains you have when you wake up in the morning,” he said. “If you don’t have them, you’re dead.”