Maggie Kuhn: “We must be proud of our age.”

maggie Kuhn T-shirt.jpeg


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.

One thought on “Maggie Kuhn: “We must be proud of our age.”

  1. When Maggie started out in early 1970s, I was an “older mom” in my thirties.  Delighted with her times on Johnny Carson show, busy starting Baltimore chapter Women’s Political Caucus.  Working with local NOW on video/wokshop, “Between a Woman & Her Doctor.”  It was the energy of other women that made our efforts possible.  Then older student in social work school; feminist therapist practice.

    When have I not been older?  We have always needed a spirited out-lier like Maggie Kuhn for our model but have not carried forward her ideas.

    Retired in the mid-1990s, moved to New York and, with difficulty, uncovered a Gray Panthers chapter.  With another seeker, revived the group but  few joiners.  On Time Goes By blog, “Where are the Gray Panthers?” would surface yet my suggestion to find/start one had no takers.  Maggie’s time was a beautiful one for many of us but the will to BEGIN has gone underground.  One hopes the grandkids…


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