From the Public Policy & Aging E-Newsletter…
We dedicate this issue [to a] celebration of the life and accomplishments of aging’s mentor, Robert N. Butler, M.D. (1927-2010). Dr. Butler is justly renowned for his Pulitzer-prize winning Why Survive? (1975), for books he co-authored with his beloved wife, Myrna Lewis, as well as for coining “ageism” and “productive aging,” terms that frame critical meanings we associate with growing older.
As a young psychiatrist in Washington, DC, he fought the deinstitutionalization of elders from mental institutions and advocated community-based senior housing. As the first director of the National Institute of Aging, Dr. Butler advanced an interdisciplinary research agenda that emphasized the need for understanding Alzheimer’s disease and for developing support systems to assist its victims and caregivers. In creating the first department of geriatric medicine at Mt. Sinai, Butler advanced the training of physicians and other health professionals. As always, he recruited the best talent he could find. Bob’s concern with the challenges and opportunities of global aging were manifest in his networking with colleagues here and abroad through the International Longevity Center.
The field of aging has lost a towering figure. Bob showed us that big ideas must animate policymaking, that scientific research matters, that important concepts must be transmitted through all media, and that people of all ages have a vital stake in growing older in healthy ways. To his friends and mentees, Robert N. Butler has left an extraordinary legacy. It is to us, who have learned so much about how to think and act out of the box from this extraordinary man, to continue his good works.
— Andy Achenbaum, Greg O’Neill, Sarah Frey, and Dani Kaiserman