Geriatric work earns professor accolade
Historical aging as a social issue is the focus of history and social work professor Andrew Achenbaum, a focus that earned him the 2007 Daniel P. Kent Award from the Gerontological Society of America.
Achenbaum said that winning the award from the GSA was a shock because recipients are usually scientists and not historians of aging.
While gerontology is broadly defined as the study of aging, Achenbaum focuses on the historical aspect of continuities and changes since the United States’ founding. He concentrates on the social, physical and mental changes a person goes through as they age and the effect these changes have on society.
Despite disagreeing with the American Association of Retired People’s slogan that "60 is the new 30," Achenbaum said that older people today are healthier, wealthier and wiser than during any other historical time period. Baby boomers, who were born between 1946 and 1964, are a part of the generation that is starting to hit standard retirement age. Achembaum said that they are worried about issues such as the environment and national health insurance while also trying to "rekindle the spirit they had in the 60s."
A baby boomer himself at 60 years old, Achenbaum said that he does not intend to retire soon.
In his work, Achenbaum said that he hopes to see improvements occur in gerontology, beginning with society viewing ageism as it does other problematic issues, such as racism and sexism. Achenbaum also said that links with other fields such as psychology would help progress gerontology, and that societal ageism should be more closely scrutinized by society.
"To say that I am honored to know Andy is an understatement, knowing as I do that only the most accomplished receive this prestigious award," social work associate professor Steven Applewhite said in a release. "Andy is a gifted scholar, a true gentleman, a historian and gerontologist of the highest tradition. We have all benefited from his lifetime of contributions to the field of gerontology."
The GSA presents the Kent Award annually to someone who "demonstrates excellence in teaching, service, leadership and, most important, for his or her ability to communicate gerontology-related issues and research to the broader community," Ira Colby, dean of the Graduate School of Social Work, said. "The University of Houston and the Graduate College of Social Work are fortunate to have a scholar on faculty who brings national recognition to the institution and is rightfully recognized for his important work."