Katherine Otis is assistant professor of history at William Peace University in Raleigh, NC. She earned her Ph.D. in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has expertise in twentieth-century U.S. social and cultural history. Her research and teaching interests include the history of civil rights and social activism, African American history, women’s history, the history of the U.S. South, the history of aging and retirement, and oral history. Katie’s doctoral dissertation, “Everything Old is New Again: A Cultural and Social History of Old Age in America, 1950-2000,” is under revision for publication with UNC Press.
Everything Old is New Again: What Policymakers and Baby Boomers Can Learn from the History of Aging and Retirement
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.