Statement from Secretary Sebelius on the Death of Dr. Robert Butler
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, July 7, 2010
CONTACT: HHS Press Office, (202) 690-6343
I join the rest of the country in mourning the death of Dr. Robert Butler, one of America's greatest champions for the health and wellbeing of older Americans. As the first director of the National Institute of Aging, the founder of the country's first geriatrics department, and in a decades-long career as a physician and policy advisor, Dr. Butler brought critical new public attention and medical resources to improving the health of our seniors.
He made great contributions as a researcher, playing a key role in the discovery that some of the debilitating conditions associated with old age could actually be prevented with the right care. But he made an even bigger impact as an advocate. He coined the term "ageism" and then became its most determined critic, helping to transform a culture that too often acted as if people's contributions to society ended on their 65th birthday.
Dr. Butler's own career showed just how wrong that view was, as he continued to be an international leader in geriatrics right up until his death at age 83. For his trailblazing work to help seniors live rich and healthy lives – to not just survive, but thrive – all Americans, young and old, owe him an enormous debt. We will miss him dearly.