The Problems, Programs, and Trends Affecting Senior Citizens, (23 June 1961) Washington, D.C.


Ollie A. Randall was a prolific writer, orator, and leader, who spent the majority of her career working with marginalized populations, including women, widows, and the elderly. Randall was an advocate for women’s rights, a social worker, and the head of the Women’s Division of the Emergency Work and Relief Bureau. Most notably, she was an advocate for elderly populations.1 Randall held a number of leadership roles and helped establish the Gerontological Society of America in 1945.2 She became the first woman president of the organization in 1955, and in 1982, the organization honored Randall by creating an annual symposium celebrating her legacy.3 Randall also co-founded the National Council on Aging in 1950. The Council honors those who have distinguished themselves in the field of aging with the “Ollie Randall Award.” One such honoree was President Lyndon B. Johnson.4

Dubbed a “philosopher of care,” Randall built her 60-year career on childhood experiences of caring for older family members in a multigenerational household.5 She spent 40 years at the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor (later the Community Service Society) and helped establish the first major senior center in New York—the William Hodson Day Center.6 Throughout her career, she worked tirelessly to erode the general public’s perception of older people “as a useless group weighing the rest of the population down” and to challenge the notion that nothing could be done to help aging populations.7 In the first decade of the twentieth century, older people were grouped with other “needy” populations, ensuring that their specific needs remained unaddressed.8 But by the mid-1950s, Social Security and Medicare defined people over 65 as a distinct category of citizens. Randall sought to improve their lives in the face of public discourse that pitted them against younger people.9 And as life expectancy averages increased, seniors experienced greater health issues. Randall committed herself to ensuring that older people also lived healthier lives to combat this new social problem.10

Randall’s work gained her national attention. She was the principal consultant to the Ford Foundation from 1959-1969 and was invited by Oscar Ewing, Director of the Federal Security Agency, to an event in Washington, D.C. with a group of other aging experts.11 In addition to having her travel expenses paid, Randall was given a $75 honorarium for her participation at the event.12 At 9:00 a.m. on June 23, 1961, Randall delivered a lecture titled: “The Problems, Programs, and Trends Affecting Senior Citizens.” The lecture was part of an 11-day event at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. called “The Workshop on Knowledge for the Practice of Public Health Nursing.” The event was meant to “afford knowledge and understanding needed by nurses to help provide healthy communities” in changing environmental and socioeconomic conditions.13 In general, the workshop was designed to advance the healthful living of seniors. It featured testimonies from biological, social, and behavioral scientists and public health and nursing experts.14

As shown through this speech and her publications, Randall believed the elderly needed regular doctor visits, companionship and time with family, adequate food, and a reasonable income. She also believed they needed to be free from any fear of maltreatment in nursing homes. She emphasized the importance of combatting the elderly’s feelings of social isolation, uselessness, financial stress, chronic illness, and house insecurity.15 Randall consulted health scientists, architects, lawyers, religious leaders, and nursing home administrators to gain insight into the lives of the elderly and to make their issues of national interest.16 Randall died at age 94 at the Allen’s Nursing Home in West Kingston, Rhode Island.17


  1. Jean K. Quam, “The Almonership of Ollie A. Randall: Affording Temporary Relief to Unobtrusive Suffering,” The Gerontologist 25, no. 2 (1985): 116-118.
  2. Tom Hickey and William E. Oriol, “New Directions and Societal Responses to Aging: A Symposium in Honor of Ollie A. Randall,” The Gerontologist 23, no. 4 (1983): 397-398.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Jeanne Yip, “Dean Jeanette Takamura Receives Ollie Randall Award From the National Council on Aging,” Columbia School of Social Work, March 18, 2006,
  5. Tamara Mann, “From Personal Care to Medical Care: The Problem of Old Age and the Rise of the Senior Solution, 1949-1950,” in Generations: Rethinking Age and Citizenship, ed. Richard Marback (Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 2015), 287-312.
  6. “Ollie A. Randall, 94; Advocate for the Aged,” New York Times, December 28, 1984, B00010.
  7. “Social Service Leader Comes to Defense of Elderly Workers,” Christian Science Monitor, November 25, 1941, 5.
  8. Mann, “From Personal Care to Medical Care,” 287.
  9. Ibid., 288.
  10. Ibid., 287.
  11. “Ollie A. Randall (1890-1984)-Social Worker, Welfare Administrator, and Advocate for the Aging,” Social Welfare History Project, 2011,
  12. Reverend Robert Paul Mohan, “Personal Correspondence to Ollie Randall: December 6, 1960,” Ollie Randall Papers, Box 30, Folder 329, Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries’ Department of Archives and Special Collections, Elmer L. Andersen Library, South Minneapolis, MN.
  13. “Purposes of the Workshop,” Tentative Program: Workshop on Knowledge for the Practice of Public Health Nursing, Ollie Randall Papers, Box 30, Folder 329.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ollie A. Randall, “The Health Needs of Older People,” Marriage and Family Living (May 1957): 187-192.
  16. Ibid.
  17. “Ollie A. Randall, 94.”