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Robert Butler, who coined ‘ageism,’ dies at 83

NEW YORK, July 6 —

Dr. Robert Butler, a Pulitzer Prize-winning expert on aging who coined the phrase “ageism,” has died in New York City, his daughter said . He was 83.

He died July 4 of leukemia at Mount Sinai Medical Center, Christine Butler said.

Butler, a gerontologist and psychiatrist, was the founding director of the National Institute on Aging, one of the National Institutes of Health. He wrote several books on aging, including the 1976 Pulitzer-winning “Why Survive: Being Old in America.”

“Everyone should be thoughtful about their future. Everyone should have a health bank, a longevity fund,” said Butler, during a 2000 interview with Fifty Plus Advocate Executive Editor, Sondra Shapiro. “So I would hope, it’s never too late to make changes. But it’s always too early to stop.”

Butler coined the term “ageism,” or age discrimination, in 1968, and led a task force that analyzed the impact of age prejudice in a 2006 report, “Ageism in America.” It addressed age discrimination in the workplace, elder abuse and the media’s role in perpetrating such bias.

During the 2000 interview with Shapiro, Butler said of the older generation: “They have taken better care of themselves, had a better diet. This is a generation that fought a Depression, a war, had a lot of goals and purpose in their life. Many older people today are more active,” than their baby boomer children.

Butler also was founding chairman of the nation’s first department of geriatrics, at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. And he was founding president of the International Longevity Center-USA in New York City, a research, policy and education center dedicated to the field of longevity and aging. The report called for further study of job skills and opportunities for older workers; age discrimination in hiring and

Butler was instrumental in research that established that senility was not inevitable with aging, but rather a consequence of disease, according to the longevity center website. A study he led helped set the agenda for such concepts as “productive aging” and “successful aging.”

He is also credited with the concept known as “life review,” a therapeutic device people can use to reflect on their lives, said Ev Dennis, secretary of the longevity center board.

At the time of his death, he was leading a committee on aging for the World Economic Forum.

He is author or co-author of several other books, including “The New Love & Sex After 60,” “The Longevity Revolution” and his latest book, “The Longevity Prescription: The 8 Proven Keys to a Long, Healthy Life.”

He was also working on another book with the working title “Medical Mistakes and Miracles,” Dennis said.

A memorial service was planned for sometime in September, Christine Butler said. — AP

Information was added from a 2000 interview with Robert Butler, conducted by Fifty Plus Advocate Executive Editor, Sondra Shapiro, during the Boston Science Museum’s  “Secrets of Aging,” exhibit.

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