Questions about President Biden’s memory touch off debate about age, mental fitness

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BROOKLINE – When President Joe Biden’s memory was called into question this week, it touched off a debate about whether an 81-year-old is mentally fit to run the country.

“My memory is fine,” said Biden, defending himself at a news conference Thursday. He went on to talk about tensions in Gaza and mistakenly referred to the leader of Egypt, as the president of Mexico.

“I’m 88, so it’s hard to talk about it,” said John Flackett of Brookline. He was sitting on a bench next to his 20-year-old grandson. “I’ve known people who are pushing 100 basically, and they seem like they’re still sharp, and so I don’t think it’s an age thing specifically,” said Finn Flackett.

After a New Hampshire rally, 77-year-old Donald Trump was called out for apparently confusing Nancy Pelosi with Nikki Haley during a rally in New Hampshire.

“Nikki Haley is in charge of security,” said Trump. “I wasn’t even in DC on Jan 6th,” Haley responded. “I wasn’t in office then. They’re saying he got confused. We can’t have someone else that we question whether they’re mentally fit,” she said.

“With age, there is a slight reduction in memory,” said Dr. Richard Dupee, Head of Geriatrics at Tufts Medical Center. “We call it age-associated memory impairment, and I would say that over the age of 65 it involves about 40% of people,” he said.

Massachusetts General Hospital neurologist Bruce Price said forgetting names is not necessarily a sign of a serious cognitive problem. “It’s probably a sign of being in overwhelm,” Price said. “Don’t we all have, if you will, an acquired attention deficit disorder, 10 balls in the air at any given moment.”

He co-founded a research group called the Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior. “There are some benefits to normal aging,” he said. “A subset of people will have wisdom based upon their experience.” 

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