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: How should society care for the elderly?
Robert Butler: Well, we are not well prepared. #1, the baby boomers in particular are very poorly prepared. They have only about 40,000 dollars in their 401Ks. They are going to have work longer. There is no escaping it. Otherwise, they are not going to have a full stomach at night. The society as a whole is not prepared. We don't have doctors well prepared to take care of old people. No one is really facing the music and solving social security. The healthcare system is still an awful mess and confused and fragmented with [Inaudible] incentives. We don't have an adequate hospital system that is safe. People get sick and mistakes get made everyday in American hospitals. So, we have a lot to do and we are not well prepared for the baby boomers and the baby boomers are not well prepared for their own old age.
Question: How do we fix it?
Robert Butler: I have a controversial view that it would be nice to end the private health insurance system and to have more of the European type system because they only spend 10% of their GDP on healthcare. We spend 16% and out of every dollar that we pay for health, we are actually paying about 20% for claims adjustment, for profits, for marketing, for shelling, not for the actual delivery of healthcare. So, we have got a real job to do in patching up this healthcare system.
Recorded on: Mar 17 2008