In Memoriam: Dr. Robert Butler

When I first became interested in aging services, I went to the library and conducted a bit of research.  What services currently existed?  What kind of background, education and experience did I need? What was the future outlook for this field? One name that emerged time after time was Robert Butler, M.D.  Some have called him the “George Washington of geriatrics.”  In fact, I began my graduate degree in gerontology in September 1997, just six months after reading this article about Dr. Butler in the New York Times in March 1997.  At that time I was not terribly internet-savvy, and I read (and re-read) the actual newspaper article in the reading room of my local library.  My life has not been the same since.

You can imagine my thrill (and surprise!) when I was invited last summer to attend a round-table discussion about senior transition issues at Dr. Butler’s “think and action tank” in NYC – the International Longevity Center (ILC).  A summary of the day-long discussion was published in the report,  Transitions to Independent Living: Life Satisfaction & Later Life Happiness. Dr. Butler was so interested in learning more about senior move management that June day. In many ways, I felt his apparent interest in senior move management meant it had finally “arrived” in the rather large universe of aging services.

Just this past spring, while attending the 2010 American Society on Aging (ASA) Conference in Chicago, I was treated to a second visit with Dr. Butler. The two of us, along with four others, had dinner alfresco in the middle of March on Chicago’s lakefront. (It was one of those most rare, 75-degrees-and-sunny days in March.) Dr. Butler was simply amazed we were dining outside – next to the Millennium Park ice rink, complete with skaters! The juxtaposition truly tickled him.

We enjoyed a wonderful dinner, and I will not soon forget his probing questions once again about the field of senior move management. He genuinely seemed to think it was the answer to many of the issues associated with the transition process of older adults.  He asked me to keep him informed about the progress of our young association. He encouraged me to keep connecting, as I was that night, with other like-minded persons in aging services. He said he believed the future was very bright for the field of senior move management!

Dr. Butler passed away on Sunday, July 4th.  He was 83. I read this article following the sudden news of his death.  His obituary in the New York Times celebrates a life well-lived in service to others.  As Grouch Marx is credited with saying, “It’s not how old you are; it’s how you are old.”  RIP, Dr. Butler.

2 thoughts

  1. Who wrote this article? I’m sorry I didn’t know about this remarkable man earlier. Thanks for the insights.

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