Some of Mr. Biden’s generational peers and supporters insisted the characterization was nothing more than a calculated political ploy to undercut his campaign, and play on perceived weakness. Many noted their own vibrant and busy lives, filled with mental and physical activity.
The criticism of Mr. Biden as forgetful and incapable of serving echoed slights and discrimination they had felt. Others thought of their own struggles as they hit their 80s, and questioned any 80-year-old’s ability to lead the nation.
They said they knew what it felt like to be drained after a two-hour drive, to struggle to recall names and facts that once came easily, to feel wary climbing up a ladder or mounting a bicycle. Republican and Democratic voters alike said they could not help but empathize with Mr. Biden’s verbal slips, and with the crush of judgment that followed them.
Despite efforts from the White House to discredit the portrait of Mr. Biden as forgetful, some voters worried about how a president their age would, in the years to come, continue to respond to the stress of wars in the Middle East and Ukraine, handle the toil of campaign rallies or endure draining overnight flights to summits around the world.
“What’s it going to be like when he gets a call in the middle of the night that there’s been a bombing, or there’s been another shooting?” asked Jan Kallheim, 83, a retired nurse from Mankato, Minn., who spends her winters in Arizona and describes herself as a conservative.