First a bit of a rant. The tags for this interview with visionary activist Maggie Kuhn are: Aging gracefully (twice, in case you don’t get the hang of it in one go), Kuhn, Gray Panther(s), Meaning, Potential, and Purpose. Where on earth is Ageism? Interviewer Ken Dychtwald is a high-profile gerontologist and marketer, writing here for the Huffington Post, hardly an internet backwater. How much longer will ageism remain missing from the mainstream mindset?
Forced to retire on her 65th birthday, in 1970, Kuhn promptly founded the Gray Panthers and became known as “America’s wrinkled radical.” The Gray Panthers spoke out on a wide range of social justice issues, from opposing the Vietnam War and income inequality to promoting strong public programs. Kuhn was a pioneer against ageism, questioning “disengagement theory” and the depiction of olders as sexless and incapacitated.
In this recently unearthed two-part interview conducted in1978, Kuhn calls late life a time of “liberation and self-determination.” She has no trouble envisioning critical roles for older members of society, as watchdogs, advocates, educators and futurists. In Part Two (in which “Reinvention” has joined the tag field), Kuhn tackles ageism more explicitly, refuting the notions that olders are useless or powerless, rejecting “senior citizen” as a demeaning euphemism, and disparaging retirement communities as “ glorified playpens.” The Gray Panthers motto was “Age and Youth In Action,” many members were students, and Kuhn was acutely aware that good programs benefit both ends of the age spectrum. Excellent reading.