Longtime columnist Ron Marr navigates the doctor’s office. He can take the poking and jabbing just not all the interrogation that started once he turned 60. Should we be checking on our elder statesmen who are seeking election too?

By Ron Marr

The Candidacy of Dorian Gray

I’M INCREASINGLY ANNOYED WITH DOCTOR’S APPOINTMENTS. I’m okay with the jabbing, poking, and prodding, but detest the interrogation. Once I turned 60, the check-in nurses started asking me patronizing questions having nothing to do with my reasons for visiting. They make me repeat my name and birthday 10 times, challenge my habits and lifestyle, and blurt out an odious query that never fails to raise my ire.

“Do you feel safe at home?”

I’m tempted to answer sarcastically, but have so far held my tongue. I’m certain, if I replied with some- thing like, “as long as the voices stop,” or “it’s all good unless the still blows up,” I’d be placed on a 72-hour mental-health hold and remanded to the custody of the social services archipelago.

Such being the case, if the government is concerned about my mental acuity, shouldn’t society apply the same standards—publicly—to elder statesmen seeking election to high office?

How come nobody from CNN, Fox, or Meet The Press is asking seasoned politicians, “Do you feel safe in the White House?”

At the time of this writing, the two top presidential candidates (Trump and Biden) are 77 and 80 respec- tively. One rambles and rages, and says incomprehensible things. The other stumbles and mumbles, and tries to shake hands with invisible people. One acts like he’s ready for hourly doses of sedatives and a big, beautiful, straitjacket. The other acts like he’s ready for the memory-care unit and a heaping bowl of pudding.

Do not misunderstand; many folks well into their 80s and 90s are still extraordinarily sharp and capable. I know a woman in Los Angeles, who at 97, still drives, thrives, and earned a Ph.D. in psychology at 70. I’ve heard the father of Missouri Life owner and longtime editor Danita Allen Wood is still running a big herd of cows, chopping wood, and being asked advice by younger farmers. He’s 92. 

Unfortunately, they’re not the ones running for president. 

What I’d like to see, especially for President Pudding and Genghis Don, are live, nationally televised neurological exams. Broadcasting their performance on a couple of simple, basic cognition tests would make for dandy TV, allowing voters to judge the candidate’s mental horsepower and make the most informed decision possible.

One standard exercise involves drawing a clock and pointing the hands to a specific time. I suspect this would not go well for either Joe or Donald, and would fully anticipate the former to scrawl “Nap Time” at the 11 AM mark. The other would likely trace the design of a nuclear countdown clock, found in a purloined box of top-secret toilet documents, with a gold-glitter crayon.

The next task is that candidates are asked to remember and repeat a couple of simple words or phrases. If we’re testing these same two candidates, we should use generic words like apple, penny, and table. We should avoid phrases already burned into their memories—terms like “witch hunt,” “C’mon, man,” “you’re fired,” or “malarkey.”

To answer the original question though, in case my doctor is reading this, I always feel safe at home. However, I’m not sure the country should feel the same sense of security.

It’s a little unsettling being led by folks who might be trying to put their shoes and socks on in that order.

Read more about how Ron staves off mental decline here. 

Article originally published in the September 2023 issue of Missouri Life.