Age Perception, Millennial Generation in the Presidential Election


Age is an attractive factor in the 2019 presidential election compared to our previous elections.

Two pairs of presidential and vice-presidential candidates have an age range that has been widely discussed in political conversation. Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, 57 years old (born on June 21, 1961), pairs up with Ma’ruf Amin, and Prabowo Subianto, 66 years old (born on October 17, 1951), pairs with Sandiaga Uno. Meanwhile, at present it is known that there is a thick layer of the millennial generation that is believed to be able to determine the direction of the presidential election with more than 40 percent of voters.

The millennial generation is a bone of contention for the two camps even though in their calculations they use the opposite strategies. Jokowi chooses 75-year-old Ma’ruf (born March 11, 1943) and Prabowo appointed Sandiaga, who has a much younger age, 49 years old (born June 28, 1969). This contrasting age difference can have an impact on prospective voter perception. At least there is a perception of age that arises, namely the question of chronological age and physiological age, including the perception of prospective millennial voters. Jokowi, besides frequently appearing “young in style”, compensates the age gap of the vice president through the appointment of the successful team leader Erick Thohir to compensate for the millennial character through the figure of Sandiaga in the Prabowo camp.


Chronological age and physiological age

As is known, age is not only a matter of chronological number. More than that, it involves at least a set of attributes or characters. The age character in the novice adult group is different from the other groups. In them there is an excellent homeostasis reserve that is also different from other groups, so that the young group is considered very excited, hardworking but sometimes very reactive.

Homeostasis is associated with the process of the mechanism of regulating the environment of balance (constant) in the body of an organism. The closer to the elderly group, the reserve of homeostasis to the adaptation process increasingly diminishes, or what is known as homeostenosis, or a decreased homeostasis ability in adapting to the environment.

This homeostenosis begins in the third decade and its path is gradually progressive. This is more directed at elderly groups who are considered sluggish, at risk of being ill, unable to follow information technology (IT) even though most are very wise and unreactive. The speed of reduction of homeostasis reserves varies greatly among individuals because the body is always equipped with a physiological machine. Physiological age is associated with changes in the physical condition of the body. Thus, when a person looks ageless or on the contrary to look to age faster, this occurrence is played by the physiological machine so that the term physiological age is different from the chronological age.

The reduction in the capacity of the organ system in the context of the process of natural physiology change cannot really be avoided and continues to run according to the life cycle in the nature of the aging process. However, there is a space in that in the slowdown process depends on genetic factors, dietary, environment and nutritional habits. This is why a person’s health can vary greatly when aging. So, it is fair enough to perceive a person’s age is also focused on work productivity because it can manage biological characteristics and physical status. Its term is a homeostasis reserve that makes real life very dynamic. Say getting old is different from feeling old.

A study in developed countries whose life expectancy is long (Isla Rippon, Andrew Steptoe, University College London, 2014) proves that people who report feeling younger than their chronological age have longer life expectancies than those who feel older. Say at the age of 70 years someone can manage his body spirit like the age of 50 so that he will have longer life expectancy, but not the opposite.


Aging at the palace

The age perception has long been associated with democratic politics. For the case of the United States, this country has chosen young or old presidents from chronological age groups. Ronald Reagan was elected at the age of 69, but there was even an older one, Donald Trump, 71 years old. Meanwhile, the example of a young president is John F Kennedy when he was appointed at the age of 43. In fact, Theodore Roosevelt, who was younger, 42 years old, became president after the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901.

All of this goes through age-related issues even though it does not leave the mastery of real issues, such as the offer of problem solving in the fields of economics, taxation, welfare, security, international relations and other sustainable development goals.

Therefore, many voters have perceived physiological age compared to chronological age. Indeed, in certain considerations, for example, the calculation of high risk of an age-related disease is a way of thinking logically. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) states that the age of the health parameters is actually very relative and should not focus on the problem of chance of disease, but more on endurance and how to maintain health when facing the adaptation process in a phase of life.

Even though usually the older the higher the risk of illness or dull feeling will be, young people can still be sick and the elderly remain in excellent condition. Voters may be attracted by vigorous images of life or wiser leaders even though they can be found at the same time in any adult age.

An example of a world phenomenon is when Barack Obama was elected president because young Obama (47 years old at the time he was elected) could capture voters’ desire for something new (change/yes we can). Most voters may think if a candidate is young, he will not be stuck in fixed idea thinking (the “older” problem) and will move beyond the status quo.

This also happened in the election of Justin Trudeau as Canadian Prime Minister (elected at the age of 44) or also Alexis Tsipras who became prime minister when his country was in an economic crisis at the age of 41 years. Even, Emmanuel Macron was elected president of France at the age of 40.

However, in the case of Reagan, Trump and Mahathir Mohamad, 93, it is possible that the elderly candidate will still attract more attention from voters. Even though classified as old, in fact the candidate still has excellent stamina, both physically and intellectually.

In this context, chronological age is set aside by the quality of physiological age. Aging is indeed a natural process, but the fact that the speed of aging between one and the other varies, depending on the circumstances. With a lot of hard work in the palace, there is the writing of Ben Tinker, “How Old is Too Old to Be President”, which included Dr. Michael Roizen’s interview from the Cleveland Clinic with Paul Terry that the presidents were effectively assessed as getting older by two years for every year.

However, this is denied by other researchers (Eileen Crimmins, University of Southern California’s Davis School of Gerontology). Faced with a lot of pressure, the presidents who worked hard reportedly actually benefited a lot for the maturity of physiological age, not as many people imagine. They tend to be people who grow when the stakes are high and have great subordinates in helping them navigate difficult times. At first glance the presidents only look older than the general population, but a study (by S Jay Olshansky, 2011) found no evidence that the US presidents died faster than the average US man. Even, on the contrary, there were 23 of the 34 presidents who died (due to natural causes) whose life was above the average life expectancy for men of the same age when they were sworn in.



It is clear that the physiological age differs from chronological age. What is important is the extent to which productivity and ability to manage issues of national problems from both sides. The millennial generation can be fascinated by a perception of the young age, but don’t forget that many of them also think substantively. From both camps, they can participate in educating if they explore more measurable (and can be fulfilled) problem solving for our nation’s concrete problems.


Djoko Santoso, Professor of Medicine, University of Airlangga