August 3rd was Maggie Kuhn’s birthday. This year we celebrate 109 years since her birth, and it is important to recognize this forward thinking American social activist for her work in the field of aging. Maggie is a champion of aging and the later years. In August 1970, she founded Gray Panthers.
“Learning and sex until rigor mortis.” ~Maggie Kuhn
Her work is notable not only because she was ahead of her time. She also broke stereotypes and at age 65, she embarked on the most important work of her life. In fact, rather than accept her employer and society pushing her into a quiet retirement, she chose to take action and work for the rights of older people.
After being forced into retirement from the Presbyterian Church, Maggie, along with her friends in similar circumstances, organized and founded the group that became the Gray Panthers. The organization focused on the issues of older people including pensions and pension rights, health care and age discrimination. Gray Panthers also addressed the larger social issues of the time such as the Vietnam War.
“By the year 2020, the year of perfect vision, the old will outnumber the young.” ~Maggie Kuhn
Maggie was a charismatic and energetic leader. She advocated for older adults to have a voice and a position at the table for programs, practice and social policy and encouraged older adults to stay involved and take action on social issues. In doing so, she started a cultural revolution.
Maggie also believed in the power of intergenerational connection. One of her mantras was ‘Young and old together’. Under her guidance, Gray Panthers came to represent the possibility and power of later life. She herself demonstrated how older adults can be active in the world working for social issues that are important to them.
“There must be a goal at every stage of life! There must be a goal!” ~Maggie Kuhn
Until death at age 89, Maggie continued her work as an activist and advocate. She redefined aging and she is a role model to us all – women and men, young and old alike.