Over 80 and still leading the way

2013-02-11 22:37
At 86 Queen Elizabeth II still heads the British royal family. (Picture: AP)

At 86 Queen Elizabeth II still heads the British royal family. (Picture: AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Paris - Pope Benedict XVI's shock resignation has placed the spotlight on octogenarians at the forefront of politics and business, sometimes shouldering a workload that people 20 years their junior may shun.

The 85-year-old pontiff announced on Monday that old age had sapped him of the strength required to lead the world's 1.1 billion Catholics.

Yet the world's stage is studded with contemporaries who prefer to hold on to the reins.

Rulers include Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, aged 86; King Bhumipol Adulyadej of Thailand, 85; Israeli President Shimon Peres, 89; and President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, 88.

In the ranks of business, there is media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, 81; TV and film magnate Sumner Redstone, 89; and Hong Kong property supremo Li Ka-shing, 84.

At 82, US actor and director Clint Eastwood is still going strong, while French Armenian singer and diplomat Charles Aznavour croons away aged 88.

In rich countries, a large number of octogenarians are in good health, said Francoise Forette, director of the French national Gerontology Foundation.

Figures for France show that only 17% of 80-plussers are made dependent by disease, she said.

Eyeing demographic trends, she said: "There are and there will be more and more people aged 80 and over who are able to shoulder the heaviest responsibilities."

But Forette and others also pointed to the growing health risks associated with ageing - and whether an individual actually wishes to carry on a demanding job at an advanced stage of life.

Last month, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands cited her 75th birthday as a reason to step down, saying "our country should be in the hands of a new generation”.

Nelson Mandela, one of the world's most respected statesmen, retired as president at the age of 81 in 1999 and from public life four years later as his health declined.

"You are not as energetic at 86 as you are at 40. When you reach that age, you are more fragile - fragile in your movements, fragile getting up," said Parisian gerontologist Olivier Henry.

"Even walking is more difficult, as the muscles become weaker."

Growing old

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the number of people aged 60 years and older has doubled since 1980 and is forecast to reach two billion by 2050 - a fifth of the planetary total.

Almost 400 million of them will be aged 80 plus, the UN's health agency says on its website.

"This population ageing can be seen as a success story for public health policies and for socioeconomic development, but it also challenges society to adapt, in order to maximise the health and functional capacity of older people as well as their social participation and security," it states.

The health risks for the elderly are many: heart disease, stroke and chronic lung disease, visual and hearing loss, dementia and osteoarthritis... the list is long.

They also sleep less and tire more easily - something that is particularly hard to handle when one's workload includes as much globetrotting as that of a Pope.

Old age can also be "a time of discouragement" as old friends and associates pass away, "and can lead to depressive syndromes," said Henry.

"There is not necessarily one reason, but possibly a series of little reasons that causes one at a given moment to say: 'Stop!'"

Read more on:    who  |  pope benedict xvi  |  pope francis  |  vatican city  |  religion

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Makeover saves dog’s life

Lucky Charlie got a complete make-over that helped him get adopted.



For the love of Corgis!
Can we communicate with our pets?
8 great natural remedies for your pet
Buying a puppy? Don’t get scammed!
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.