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Honoring the Past, Defining the Future

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Elders October 27th, 2020

Combatting Stereotypes, older adults have been redefining what it means to age well for more than 50 years

In a recent New York Times Opinion piece, readers were given a reminder of anti-ageism activism that began 50 years ago through the leadership of Maggie Kuhn and her creation of the Gray Panthers. Infuriated by being forced out of her job at 65 (and even more irked that her parting gift was a sewing machine), and outraged by what gerontologists in the 1970s championed as “disengagement theory” — the notion that it was normal and natural for older people to simply withdraw from society — she took on what was then, and still is, one of the most socially acceptable biases in our country: ageism. By the late 1970s, the Gray Panthers had 100,000 members in more than 30 states. Their activism included dressing as doctors and nurses and making a “house call” to American Medical Association’s convention to issue a diagnosis that it lacked a heart and neglected older American health issues. Their greatest achievement was getting Congress, in 1986, to ban mandatory retirement ages for most jobs. The Oakland Gray Panther Chapter was a Trust grantee in 1991.

Read the piece from the New York Times here:

https://smithct.org/assets/docs/nyt_gray_panthers_sept2020.pdf