Anderson Cooper’s blog offers up a nice recollection of Dr. Butler.
…it was Butler who, in 1968, coined the term “ageism.” By “ageism,” you might think of bias in employment, housing, public services and the like. I tend to think of depictions of older people in film, videos, television and commercials.
There are societies that honor and treasure their elders. The United States too often is not one of them. I find myself annoyed and offended by depictions and ridicule of older people as enfeebled, forgetful, clumsy and generally incapable. I tend to think that as 78 million baby boomers continue to age, their tolerance of these stereotypes will be limited.
Which brings me back to Butler, described as “the George Washington of geriatric care” in the introduction to a public television interview.
The man was not years but decades ahead of his time.
Raised by grandparents, Butler wanted to be a hematologist, studying blood diseases, but turned to gerontology after observing what he considered callous disregard of the elderly by the medical profession.
Butler’s credits include: leading research at the National Institutes of Health that resulted in the pioneering work titled “Healthy Aging”; winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his book “Why Survive? Being Old in America”; founding director of the National Institute on Aging and establishing a department of geriatrics and adult development at the Mount Sinai Medical School, the first of its kind.
If the measure of a man is what others say about him, consider this: “Not only was he the leading voice on issues related to longevity and the study of aging, but he was a moral voice who insisted that society value our elders in its public policies and programs,” from Michael J. Burgess, director of the New York State Office for the Aging.