By Len Fishman and Jeffrey Burr
The field of gerontology has lost a pioneer with the death of Professor Emeritus Frank Caro, an inspiring and beloved figure at UMass Boston. He died on October 2, at age 84. Frank was an architect of one of the world’s most influential gerontology programs. More than that, he was its heart and soul.
Frank wore many hats at UMass Boston, a former director of the Gerontology Institute and chair of the Gerontology Department in the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies. He also helped found the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UMass Boston and the Management of Aging Services Master’s program.
Frank is remembered as a consummate scholar-administrator in the field of higher education. He guided the Gerontology Department through its early years with a steady hand and a determination to make its educational programs excel. He deftly mentored many doctoral students and junior faculty members during his years on our campus. Beyond his many great professional achievements, he was known for his kindness, thoughtfulness and humility.
A nationally recognized expert in long-term services and supports, Frank had wide-ranging academic interests. He was a pioneer in the area of productive and healthy aging and, in later years, embodied those behaviors. Frank remained an active member of the Gerontology program after he retired from UMass Boston in 2008, publishing 21 articles and three books. He continued as editor of the Journal of Aging and Social Policy until 2016.
Frank’s creativity was not limited to intellectual pursuits. Gardening was a lifelong passion and he became a potter and brewer of beer later in life. His creativity also took the form of activism. He was instrumental in creating the Brookline Community Aging Network (BrooklineCAN), which he co-chaired until his death, with the goals of making Brookline more hospitable to older people and older people more integral to the life of their hometown. He was also the driving force behind the movement to make Brookline the first “Age-friendly Community” in Massachusetts, as designated by the World Health Organization. BrooklineCAN became a widely-admired model, and Frank generously assisted age-friendly activists in communities around the state. Today, over half of Massachusetts cities and towns are engaged in the age-friendly movement, and the state itself was the second in the U.S. to be designated age-friendly. Frank’s public service extended to Brookline’s Town Meeting where he served for 16 years.
Frank received his PhD in Sociology from the University of Minnesota. He taught at his alma mater, Marquette University, the University of Colorado in Boulder, and Brandeis University in the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. From 1974 to 1988, Frank served as the Research Director at the Community Service Society of New York.
Frank is survived by Carol, his wife of 55 years. He leaves behind his twin sons, David and Paul Caro, as well as David’s wife, Ashima Dayal, and their sons, Jasper and Bennett, and Paul’s wife, Liz Slagus, all of Brooklyn, NY. Frank is also survived by his brother, James Caro, and his wife, Barbara, of Seattle, WA, and his sister, Betsy Chanier, and her husband, Jacques, of St. Lo, France. A Memorial Service is being planned for a future date.
Len Fishman is director of the Gerontology Institute and Jeffrey Burr is chair of the Gerontology Department at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School