Robert N. Butler, M.D.
The history of this volume is quickly told. In anticipation of the 1981 White House Conference on Aging -- and the key role to be played by the Conference committee on research -- the National Institute on Aging (NIA) was asked to provide a series of background papers on various aspects of psychosocial aging. The objective of this task was to broaden scientific understanding of the psychosocial components of the aging process, to contribute more accurate information on the place of older people in society, and to call attention to a number of "leading edges" in research on aging.
The importance of this task was monumental. Although past White House Conferences on Aging have recognized the potential impact of aging research on the development of public policy, this was the first time that research was allotted committee stature. We at the NIA considered it necessary that the delegates understand the vital role of research on psychosocial aging in the context of Conference objectives. We hear a good deal about the "graying of America." What we need to know is how the striking changes in the age composition of our society will affect labor, housing, health care, and other areas of concern, and how we can plan and promote an effective national policy on aging.
Leading Edges: Recent Research on Psychosocial Aging ( NIH Publication No. 81-2350) was published in November 1981 for purposes of the White House Conference on Aging. This limited edition was almost immediately exhausted. Now, for a wider audience, the papers appear under a new title -- reformatted, reordered and reedited.
Had the NIA been able to update Volume I of Aging and Society: An Inventory of Research Findings (Riley, Foner, and associates, Russell Sage Foundation, 1968) it would have more than met the Institute's obligation to the White House