There’s been much discussion recently about the president’s age, with 77% of Americans saying that President Biden is too old to be effective. However, less of this discussion has focused on members of Congress by age, even though the legislative branch has similarly grown older.

For public affairs professionals, being aware of the age of Congress members helps them understand the level of experience, priorities and status among the legislative body to carry out an effective government relations strategy. Additionally, studying this data can help keep track of potentially departing members of Congress, along with engaging new, incoming members.

This blog explores various members of Congress by age, drilling into the numbers to provide insights on demographic trends among the legislative branch.


Who Are the Oldest Members of Congress in 2023?

While a new crop of young Congresspeople was elected in 2022, Congress continues to be older than the American public, which has a median age of 38.9 years old

Let’s look at the demographics of the two bodies of Congress to explore the oldest members of Congress.


The Oldest Members of the House of Representatives

At 87 years old, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (D-Calif.) is the oldest member of the House of Representatives. Napolitano has served in Congress since 1999, spanning 24 years and three California districts where she’s represented.

The next oldest members of Congress age include:

It’s worth noting that despite concerns over Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s age, the former speaker of the House didn’t crack the top 5 oldest members of the House of Representatives. However, at 83 years old, Pelosi finds herself the sixth oldest member of Congress by age.


The Oldest Members of the Senate

At 90 years old, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa)  is currently the oldest senator and oldest member of Congress by age. First elected in 1980, Senator Grassley is the longest-serving Republican in Senate history, overtaking the record of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) in 2023. Grassley is also the 6th longest-running Senator of all time.

Previously, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was the oldest senator before her death in September 2023.


What is the Average Age of Congress?

According to LegiStorm data, the average age of Congress is 61 years old, factoring in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The average of Congress has remained the same as the 117th Congress, although the numbers obscure the many demographic changes that have occurred.

To fully analyze this data, we’ll need to break out the two bodies of Congress.


Average Age of the Senate

The average age of the Senate stands at 64, remaining the same as the previous 117th Congress, when the Senate age increased by a year. Senators are significantly older than their House colleagues, which aligns with historical patterns.

However, it does look as though the Senate is beginning to trend a bit younger than previous years. Of the nine incoming senators in the 118th Congress, the average age is 51, well below the average age of the Senate. If this trend continues in future iterations of Congress, expect the body to experience a decrease in age in the coming years.


Average Age of the House of Representatives

The average age of the House of Representatives is 58, unchanged from the previous Congress. While the average age of House members stayed the same, the median age decreased by a year (58.9 to 57.9) as a new crop of relatively young members of Congress entered the scene.

In the House, the most populous age range is 50-59, making up 24.5% of the body. This is closely followed by 40-49-year-olds, who make up 22.5% of the House. However, older generations still comprise a decent percentage of the House, with 70-79 year olds making up 16.4% and 60-69 year olds making up 13.9%.




The Average Age of Congress by Party

While both Democrats and Republicans contain several older Congress members, there are slight differences between the average age of Congress by party.

In both the Senate and the House of Representatives, Democrats skew a tad older than their Republican counterparts. In the Senate, the average Democratic member of Congress by age is 65 years old, compared to 63 years old for Republicans, with 34% of Democratic senators being 70 or older.

Democrats are also an average of two years older than Republicans in the House, with Democrats averaging 59 years old and Republicans averaging 57. However, Republicans are slightly more represented by those 70 and older, with the group making up 23% of Republican House members, compared to less than 20% among Democrats.


Who Are the Youngest Members of Congress?

The biggest news from the 2022 midterms was the increase in diverse and young incoming members for the 118th Congress. This included Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), the first elected member of Generation Z who, at the age of 26, is the youngest congressman currently serving.

Not surprisingly, the list of youngest members of Congress tends to be newer arrivals in their first or second terms. The youngest members of Congress by age include:


The Age of Congress Over Time

There has been a notable trend of increasing age among members of the U.S. Congress over time. Historical data indicates that the age of members of Congress began to rise at least in the 107th Congress running from 2001 to 2003 when the average age stood at 54. Each subsequent Congress has experienced a modest rise until the present.

Several factors contribute to this phenomenon, including incumbency advantages, which can result in longer-serving members, and the challenges faced by younger candidates in gaining electoral traction.

Additionally, as politics has become a more established career path, individuals may enter Congress later in life after building experience in other fields.


Is There an Age Limit for Congress?

There is currently no constitutional age limit for serving in Congress. The absence of a maximum age limit reflects the principles of inclusivity, allowing individuals to contribute their wisdom and expertise regardless of their advanced years.

In recent years there has been more discussion about the increasing age of Congress and the necessity of imposing age limits. According to a 2023 Pew Research report, 82% of Republicans and 76% of Democrats supported maximum limits on the age of Congress members.

However, enacting a maximum age limit would require a constitutional amendment, which would need a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate, an unlikely scenario at the present moment.




How Old Do You Have to Be to Run for Congress?

To run for the United States Congress, candidates must meet the constitutional age requirements outlined in Article I, Section 2 (for the House of Representatives) and Article I, Section 3 (for the Senate).

Prospective House members must be at least 25 years old, while the age requirement for the Senate is at least 30. This framework ensures that candidates possess a level of maturity and experience deemed essential for effective legislative representation.

Beyond age, candidates must also meet other eligibility criteria, including citizenship and residency requirements, to participate in the democratic process and vie for a seat in Congress.


Frequently Asked Questions About the Age of Congress


Who is the youngest U.S. senator ever elected?

John Henry Eaton was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1818 at the age of 28, making him the youngest senator ever elected. Although Eaton was two years younger than the Senate age minimum, he was able to serve with little controversy due to poorly kept birth records and the fact that he was never asked about his age.


Who is the longest-serving woman in Congress?

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) is the longest-serving woman in Congress. First elected in 1982, Rep. Kaptur became the longest-serving woman in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018 before breaking the record of Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) to become the longest-serving woman in Congress.


How many senators are more than 80 years old?

Currently, five senators are older than 80. The list is as follows:


Who has served Congress the longest?

The late Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) holds the distinction of being the longest-serving Congress member of all time, with more than 59 years in office. He served from 1955 until his death in 2015. He took over the seat from his father, who served 22 years himself and turned over the seat to his wife, Debbie Dingell. John Dingell is followed by:


Who had the longest term as Speaker of the House?

Rep. Samuel Rayburn (D-Texas) holds the record for the longest tenure of speaker at 17 years.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was the top Democrat in the House for 20 years but some of that time was in the minority.


Who had the shortest term as Speaker of the House?

Thomas Pomeroy of New York served just one day as speaker from March 3, 1869 to March 4, 1869, claiming the record for the shortest speaker tenure of all time.


Who is the longest-serving Republican Speaker of the House?

In 2006, Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) surpassed Rep. Joseph Cannon (R-Ill.) as the longest-serving Republican speaker, serving in the position for eight years before leaving Congress in 2007.


How long has the average member of Congress been in office?

According to the Congressional Research Service, as of January 3, 2023, the average length of service for Representatives in the 118th Congress is 8.5 years, down from 8.9 years in the 117th Congress.


Understanding the Age of Congress in 2023

Understanding the age of Congress is important for developing relationships in Washington by understanding who wields power, which is typically attained through longevity. Studying the age of Congress also helps to identify potential departing members of Congress, as well as new members looking to make a name for themselves in Washington.

By utilizing public affairs software such as LegiStorm, public affairs professionals can track the age of Congress members, along with member committee assignments, sponsored legislation, voting history and more. This information can be invaluable for developing an effective government relations strategy that furthers your cause.

*Please be advised that this blog post relies on LegiStorm's data as of December 16, 2023; for the most current information, refer to LegiStorm's platform.





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