Miller Center

Katie Otis

History, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Everything Old is New Again: What Policymakers and Baby Boomers Can Learn from the History of Aging and Retirement

Otis photo

Katie Otis is a visiting Lecturer in the History Department at the University of North Carolina.

Otis's dissertation explored the history of aging in mid-to-late 20th-century America through the lens of retirement life in Florida, a state long synonymous with shuffleboard and park benches. She explained that Social security and private pensions sparked the growth of mass retirement among the working and middle classes. On the whole, seniors are healthier and wealthier than ever before. Their growing numbers, moreover, captured the attention of politicians, policymakers, and advocacy groups who worked to improve the quality of later life. The need for dignified, cost-effective elder care remained woefully unfulfilled. Drawing on government documents, gerontological studies, popular retirement literature, and oral histories, Otis's work melded institutional and political history with the cultural and social experiences of aging in the postwar world to give voice to older Americans as they negotiated the promises and pitfalls of old age and retirement.

Fellowship year: 2007

Mentor: Andy Achenbaum, University of Houston

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