Getty played mother to Bea Arthur on "The Golden Girls" (1985), however, Bea is actually 15½ months older than Estelle. Estelle was born on July 25, 1923 and Bea was born on May 13, 1922.
Getty's career actually began when she was much younger on the 'borscht belt' circuit and Yiddish stage, but she gave it up to raise a family. She returned to acting much later and became a hit on Broadway as Harvey Fierstein's meddling mom in "Torch Song Trilogy". It was the L.A. tour of this show that led to her being cast in "The Golden Girls" (1985) and at age 62 she became an "overnight" TV star.
During a brief reunion in November 2004 with "The Golden Girls" (1985)'s Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Bea Arthur, it was reported on TV by the ladies that Estelle was suffering from severe dementia.
Although her character of Sophia often made jokes about the Republican party on "The Golden Girls" (1985) Getty herself was a registered Republican, a fact she recognized in her personal biography.
In 1991, as later reported in Star magazine, Getty helped her 29-year-old nephew Steven Scher, who was suffering from the final stages of AIDS and near death. Because his parents lived in England and his friends were no longer able to care for him in Greensboro, North Carolina, Getty took it upon herself to have him flown to California and admitted to hospice care. He died in January 1992.
Played the same character, Sophia Spirelli Petrillo-Weinstock, on five different TV series: "The Golden Palace" (1992), "The Golden Girls" (1985), "Nurses" (1991), "Empty Nest" (1988), and "Blossom" (1990).
Her nephew Stephen died from AIDS in January 1992 at the age of 29.
Retired in 2000 after revealing she had health issues. In the mid 1990s, she was misdiagnosed with Parkinson's disease. By the end of the 1990s, she was misdiagnosed again, this time with Alzheimer's disease. Later, she was correctly diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, which has similar symptoms to both Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.