Long Lived Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter

The recent news of Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter entering hospice care over Presidents' Day weekend has drawn attention to the notable number of former US presidents, like Carter, who have completed their terms and gone on to live long private lives over the past few decades.

Jimmy Carter's Longevity as a Former President

Having surpassed the lifespan of 46 other presidents over the course of more than 230 years, Carter, now 98 years old and the 39th president, has outlived George H.W. Bush by nearly four years. This is particularly remarkable, considering the 2015 announcement that Carter's cancer had spread to his brain.

Despite his longevity, Carter has not dwelled on the topic, though he is the oldest living president and the president with the longest post-presidential life.

Carter's Milestones and Achievements

A significant milestone for him and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, was reaching their 75th wedding anniversary in 2020, making them the longest-married presidential couple in US history.

Carter has stated that marrying Rosalynn was the best decision of his life, calling it the pinnacle of his existence during a 2015 C-SPAN interview at The Carter Center. Nonetheless, his long life as a former peanut farmer and philanthropist signifies a pivotal moment in post-presidential history.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter greets a Nepalese boy in Kathmandu.  Credit: The Carter Center

Longevity among Former U.S. Presidents

Prior to 2004, only two former U.S. presidents had lived beyond the age of 90, one of whom was John Adams, the nation's second president. He passed away on July 4, 1826, the same day as Thomas Jefferson, who was seven years younger. Given that the average life expectancy for American men was approximately 40 years during Adams' time, his longevity was unusual among early presidents.

However, most former presidents have lived longer than the average American man. Since 2004, every former U.S. president has lived into their 90s, while the average man's life expectancy has remained in the mid-70s. As a result, there are now many living former presidents.

Increasing Number of Living Ex-Presidents

As far back as 1861, there were five living ex-presidents, but this was uncommon at the time. In recent decades, there have been several occasions where Carter was one of five former presidents still living. When these ex-presidents appeared together, their images briefly distracted from the increasing partisanship in Washington.

Assuming political divisions do not make such gatherings a thing of the past, presidential photographers might soon require wider lenses on their cameras. Today, all of the other living former presidents are aged 76 or younger. Barack Obama will turn 62 later this year.

President Joe Biden's Age in Comparison

It is interesting to note that President Joe Biden, the oldest elected U.S. president at 80, has already outlived more than 70% of past presidents. Of the other four living former presidents, Bill Clinton, Obama, and George W. Bush all have good chances of surpassing Carter in terms of post-presidential longevity.

Whether their post-presidency accomplishments will match Carter's is a matter for historians to debate.

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