Elaine Brody was a prominent social worker, researcher and leading figure in the specialized field of aging. A prolific scholar, she published several books, numerous articles and book chapters and was past president of the Gerontological Society of America, the professional association of gerontologists. Brody died in 2014 at the age of 92, four years after the publication of this essay.
This article appeared in a special issue of The Gerontologist, a top scientific journal whose readership includes academics and practitioners in the multidisciplinary field of aging. Departing from her unique perspective as both a gerontologist and a “very old” person herself, she reflects on the experiences of people who are “very old” as well as on the unique set of issues that concern them.
Macro Social Processes or larger historical/political events that have had a direct impact in the lives of very old people born during the 1920s and 1930s:
-The 1929 Crash and the Great Depression Social Security Act (1935) -World War II (1939-1945) -The rise in life expectancy since the end of WWII Medicare (1965) -Medicaid & SSI (Supplemental Security Income) -Older Americans Act of 1965 -Civil Rights, Women’s Rights and the publication of The Feminine Mystique (1963)by Betty Friedan
Terminology used in gerontology to categorize older adults by chronological age: -Young old (65-74) -Old Old (75- 84) -Very Very Old (85+) -Centenarians (100+)
Examples of discussion questions: -If you grew up during the 1930s and 1940s, and feel comfortable sharing some stories, what memories do you have of the depression era?And War World II and post-war era period? -How did these experiences affect your outlook in life (if at all)?
Brody discusses the importance of friendship and family in late life, but also specific concerns related to these: -What is social life like at Community Place/Valley Manor? -What roles do you think family members should play in supporting individuals as they age? -How do seniors support family and friends?