Elaine M. Brody, 91, a leader in gerontology

Elaine Brody
Elaine Brody
Posted: July 17, 2014

Elaine M. Brody, a pioneer in social work and gerontology whose career influenced policy and services for seniors and their families, died Wednesday, July 9, of respiratory failure at her home in San Mateo, Calif.

According to her own academic definition, the former Philadelphian was "very, very old" at 91 years of age.

Mrs. Brody's groundbreaking research on older adults and their caretakers contributed to the birth of gerontology. Her work continues to serve as a foundation for research in the field.

A familiar face in congressional hearing rooms and behind conference lecterns, she devoted her life to detailing the physical, financial, and psychological tolls taken on the elderly and their families because of greater longevity. Having studied those strains, she made some noise about them.

She wrote more than 200 academic articles and six books. Her 1986 work, Parent Care as a Normative Family Stress, has been cited many times by others. She published her final article in 2010.

Mrs. Brody won numerous awards for her work from the Gerontological Society of America, including the prestigious Kent Award and the M. Powell Lawton Award.

She also produced 15 major studies under federal research grants and was named a Distinguished Scholar of the National Academies of Social Work Practice.

In 1986, she won Ms. Magazine's Woman of the Year Award for documenting the challenges facing "women in the middle." She coined the term to mean those raising children and working, while also caring for their elderly parents.

Over a 30-year career beginning in 1957, she served as associate director of research at the Polisher Research Institute in Philadelphia, as president of the Gerontological Society of America, as clinical professor of psychiatry at the Medical College of Pennsylvania, and as adjunct associate professor of social work in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine.

She received an honorary doctorate from the Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1987.

Mrs. Brody was director of the department of human resources and associate director at the Philadelphia Geriatric Center (PGC) in Philadelphia.

In an article in the Gerontologist, she explained how she chose that field. Her husband urged her to go to graduate school while he served in the Navy during World War II. After the war, she was a stay-at-home mother. When her children attained school age, she took a part-time job at the geriatric center, although she hesitated: She had trained to work with children, not the elderly.

"I tried it, I liked it, and I never looked back," she wrote. "It was the only place I ever worked, but because the PGC was constantly changing, it always felt new. Actually, I ended up working with parents and children, as I had planned, though the parents were old and the children middle-aged."

Born Elaine Marjorie Breslow in New York, she graduated from City College of New York and earned a master's degree in social work from the University of Pittsburgh.

She and her husband, Stanley J. Brody, a leader in the fields of gerontology, rehabilitation, and public health, collaborated professionally. He died in 1997. The two had been married for 54 years. They lived in Wyncote and then Rittenhouse Square before moving to the West Coast in the 1990s.

Mrs. Brody is survived by a daughter, Laurel; a son, Peter; four granddaughters; and three great- grandchildren.

Services were Monday, July 14, in California.

Donations may be made to the Elaine M. Brody Memorial Fund at the Gerontological Society of America, 1220 L St. N.W., Suite 901, Washington, D.C. 20005, or via www.geron.org/support-gsa.


bcook@phillynews.com

610-313-8102

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