Over 80 and still leading the way

2013-02-11 22:37

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!'"

  • bafana.ndlovu.9026 - 2013-02-11 23:10

    Indeed a golden generation. RIP in peace pope - praying for your family

      dylan.sciarappa - 2013-02-12 08:15

      What's wrong with you man? He is not dead

      mlungisi.botha - 2013-02-12 10:04

      C'mon Bafana what's with you man? You cut and pasted the wrong sentence. He's not dead yet!! Does he have a family?...well not in the sense you mean. Pope's are not allowed know, so he doesn't have a family. He's got a broer I think!

  • louismose.moses - 2013-02-11 23:14

    Hi bafana the man is nt dead.he need a break my man

      bafana.ndlovu.9026 - 2013-02-11 23:19

      There was an article how he died hard, I get what you mean though - always lives on in our hearts

      mlungisi.botha - 2013-02-12 10:11

      Haai bo Bafana. Isaphila lendoda. Yekela ukubhema lento oyibhemile. Ungathi iyakupazamisa. C'mon Bafana. the man's still alive. Stop smoking that stuff you're smoking. it disturbs your mind!

  • Charles Frederik Robberts - 2013-02-12 05:08

    bafana are you for real? you appear to be the king of assumptions!

  • carole.small.96 - 2013-02-12 05:37

    Please don't compare this man with other octogenarians. We are not all made the same. Our physical constitutions are not all the same. I am not a Catholic, but I take off my hat to this man, for having the gits to admot he can't carry on. May you have a peaceful retirement Pope Benedict.

  • mordikaai.speak - 2013-02-12 07:15

    This really has nothing to do with age or health one thing politics

  • mlungisi.botha - 2013-02-12 10:17

    C'mon News 24 - it's not heading the British royal family that's the issue here. That does not take much effort as most of the royals take care of themselves. It's the fact that at her age she heads the British empire - British government, commonwealth and everything else. that's why we should marvel that at 86 she's still able to do that - with a spring in her step and smile on her face!! Go Queen Go!!

  • amasango - 2013-02-12 14:37

    Pope benedict the XVI is retiring not because of politics but because of his age, now it's back to the dark room and all cardinals will be praying for the worlds new pope AT VATICANT CITY in ROME. NB: The pope isn't for catholics only but THE catholic church it is the mother body of all churches in the world. Yes i am catholic.

  • pages:
  • 1