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

admin Contributor
Font Size:

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

He died Sunday 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.”

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.

Butler 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.

“His advocacy and writings profoundly influenced every sphere of aging policy and programs, from the creation of an aging network to services for caregivers,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg credited Butler with providing leadership and guidance to the City’s Age Friendly Initiative, a comprehensive municipal plan recognized this week by the World Health Organization, which is working to create age friendly cities around the world.

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 also is 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 also was 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.