Gerentology is the study of old age. Dr. Robert Baker, now called the father of Gerentology, is a psychiatrist,whose life work is a testament to the elderly,. He recently died of Leukemia in New York Mt. Sinai Hospital at the age of 83. True to his beliefs, he was working and enjoying life right up to the end. He worked up until three days before je died of acute leukemia. It is to him that the medical community credits the way society now looks at old age.
Thanks to him, old people now still have minds, can think, work, and a great many of them are truly living in the golden age. In some sense, reviewing his life and his work, one understands that old age is the harvesting of a lifetime of toil and labor. It is a time when mellowing happens and when life and its purpose is coming together and finally begins to make sense. It also seems fitting that those who fully appreciate the world around them can only, at the very end of life, fully appreciate good health.
You’ve got to know how to die gracefully, as he certainly did, that you can fully appreciate life. And appreciate life he did. His contributions are many and will live on. He saw the way in which the younger society looked on the aging population and set out to change this thinking. In 1975, his book “Why Survive? Being old In America” was so well received that it earned him a Pulitzer prize.
In his work with the aged, in his writing and in his lectures, he coined the word ageism. Supposedly it means how the world reacts to humanity at varies states of life. It could well mean many things, but no doubt what it meant for this honorable gentleman was that respect for life should begin from beginning to end. Of course he understood that the younger generations did not purposely disrespect the elderly, they simply had not learned how to respect them. They had not yet learned of their importance.
The three main contributions to his life, The American Geriatric Society; The Alzheimer’s Disease Association; and the International Longevity Center, will continue on his work. When confronting work of such magnitude and of such importance, the first question becomes, why? Where did such ideas originate? In his case, they must have originated from his upbringing. His grandparents raised him and this was solid proof of the legitimacy of his convictions. Older age had contributed much to his life from an early age.
As director of the National Institutes on Aging, he was in the right place to promote his ideas on how oldsters should be treated. This life lesson probably began at his birth on January 21, 1927, in New York. He was raised by his grandparents because his parents divorced when he was eleven months old. Getting his medical degree in 1953, and furthered his education in psychiatry and neurology in San Francisco and at NIMH in Bethesda, Maryland. He worked in Public Health, went into private practice, taught and lectured. All the time advocating how to live better in old age.
As he aged, and while directing the National Institute on Aging, and emphasizing study on Alzheimer’s, the apparently saw the need for better educated doctors on the subject of aging. Out of that came the Alzheimer’s Association and the American Federation for Aging Research. His writings were on the biological and societal effects of aging. It was important to him that the aged review their life and he felt this should be a time of putting their past life in order. He believed they should looks back and see how their past life directly affected their thoughts and actions and later beliefs.
At the time his grandmother was caring for him at the age of seven, she was then an elderly woman in her sixties, who soon became widowed. The times were tough, it was during the Great Depression, and life was hard. It certainly left a lasting impression on him. Thanks to a determined grandmother, he survived and in thanks devoted his life to others of like circumstances.