Pioneer in Aging: Dr. Robert Butler
Dr. Robert Butler knows all about aging. Not only is he in his eighties himself, he's the man who coined the term "ageism" and pioneered aging as a field of study. In this edition of Life (Part 2), host Alan Rosenberg sits down with Dr. Butler for a fascinating and inspiring conversation.
Rosenberg introduces Dr. Butler as "the George Washington of geriatric care." He is a physician and founding director of the National Institute on Aging. He helped found the Alzheimer's Disease Association, the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, the American Federation for Aging Research and the Alliance for Aging Research. Dr. Butler is widely published and has written several books, including Why Survive?: Being Old in America, which won a Pulitzer Prize.
Dr. Butler took an interest in aging as a youngster. He was raised by his grandparents and lost his grandfather at a young age. It is difficult to face aging in this culture, he says, because there's a pervasive mindset that people should be self-sufficient, no matter what. "We need a better balance," he says, between independence and the cohesion needed among generations.
Dr. Butler talks about some of the myths of aging and how attitudes about aging must change. Not only that, there is a dearth of geriatric training in medical school despite the growing population of elderly. But, he says, "When the baby boomers hit golden time, things are going to have to change."
Loss, denial, preparing for the future, and aging vitally are some of the things that Dr. Butler discusses in the conversation. And when host Alan Rosenberg mistakenly suggests that Dr. Butler has retired, he is corrected. Dr. Butler adds, "If you're retired, the implication is that you're no longer a part of society." Among other things, Dr. Butler is presently working on a book, The Longevity Revolution.
As Dr. Butler says in Why Survive: "After one has lived a life of meaning, death may lose much of its terror, for what we fear most is not really death but a meaningless and absurd life."