Dr. Robert N. Butler is the President and CEO of the International Longevity Center. Whether through his many appearances in front of the United States Congress, or his hundreds of interviews with the media, Dr. Butler has worked tirelessly for decades to push population-aging issues into the public discourse. As a gerontologist and psychiatrist, Dr. Butler recognized discrimination against the elderly as early as 1968, coining the term "ageism." Eight years later, the publication of his Pulitzer-prize-winning "Why Survive? Being Old in America" solidified his reputation as someone who foresaw the impact that aging would have on American society. A founding director of the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health, as well as the nation's first department of geriatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Dr. Butler often consults for television and radio. He is the author of some 300 scientific and medical articles. Source: The International Longevity Center
Question: What are some common myths about aging?
Robert Butler: Well, one is that older people are automatically all sick and senile, which is not true. Only about 5% of older people for example are in nursing homes with any kind of dementia or Alzheimer's disease. The idea they are not productive and can't be successful in the work force when we know there are numbers of them that are and they are dependable and hard working people in the work force. The idea they are all sexless, which is also not true. They have desire, capability, and satisfaction unless they have a disease of some sort and even those are now increasingly treatable. <p style="text-align: justify" class="MsoNormal"> <p style="text-align: justify" class="MsoNormal">Robert Butler: They are still capable of learning and right now there are already 74,000 centenarians that means people over 100 years of age. They have remained independent and capable all through their 95th year. So, there is no way to assume that people are not able to learn just because they are getting older.
Robert Butler: Well, [Inaudible] central nervous system and it simply hasn’t played out as yet. I suppose if we have a 200-year-old person maybe they would have trouble, but we don’t know that yet. <p style="text-align: justify" class="MsoNormal"> <p style="text-align: center" class="MsoNormal" align="center"> How can people learn more as they age? <p style="text-align: justify" class="MsoNormal"> <p style="text-align: justify" class="MsoNormal">Robert Butler: Well, I think one of the great ways to do it is to learn something totally different like a new language, a musical instrument, because that really challenges the brain and learning more of the same…I continue to do cross word puzzles…might be ok, but it is not as desirable or as powerful a stimulant to the central nervous system as a brand new challenge like a new language or a musical instrument.
Robert Butler: The capacity for learning new things, vocabulary building, [Inaudible] actually grows with age. Speed changes, that is you are not as quick in responding to a stimulus as you get older.
Recorded on: Mar 17 2008