Posted by suzanne on Aug 3, 2014
This August, it is timely to recognize leading-edge American social activist Maggie Kuhn for her work in the field of aging. August 3rd marks the 109th year since her birth. Maggie was a champion of aging and the later years. She founded the Gray Panthers in August 1970.
Maggie’s work is notable not only because she was ahead of her time with her vision. She also broke stereotypes and, at age 65, embarked on the most important work of her life. In fact, rather than accept being pushed into a quiet retirement by her employer and societal pressure, 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 who found themselves 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 was a charismatic and energetic leader. She advocated for older adults to have a voice and the opportunity to provide input into programs, practice and social policy. She 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 Pantners came to represent the possibility and power of later life and to stand for social and economic justice and peace for all ages. The organization’s motto is ‘Age and Youth in Action’ very much echoing Maggie’s sentiments. Maggie herself demonstrated how older adults can be active in the world, working for social issues that are important to them.
“Learning and sex until rigor mortis.”
Until her death at age 89, Maggie continued her work as an activist and advocate. She redefined aging and is a role model to all of us – women and men, young and old alike.
“There must be a goal at every stage of life! There must be a goal!”
Maggie Kuhn was a visionary leader. She inspired many people to view aging differently. She left an incredible legacy. Unfortunately, ageism, discrimination and lack of intergenerational connection continue to be issues that require attention in our society. These are barriers to a cultural revolution that would shift our society from a youth-oriented culture to a society for all ages. In our aging society, we need more people like Maggie to help move the cultural revolution forward.
Posted by suzanne on Jul 15, 2014
‘Young and older together.’ This was a mantra of Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Grey Panthers in the United States. Maggie was ahead of her time in recognizing aging as an issue and redefining what aging means in society.
As human beings, we need strong bonds and connections to individuals of all ages. It is up to all of us to cultivate these interactions and relationships so we can reap the many rewards. Individuals and communities benefit from intergenerational experiences.
Recently, I was quoted in the Grey Bruce Kids magazine about intergenerational interaction. Kristen B. Dyer, the author, encourages children and their parents to seek out or create intergenerational opportunities. Please check out the article “Intergenerational Bridges’ in the June issue.
Catch the joy of intergenerational interaction!
Posted by suzanne on Jun 12, 2014
June is Seniors’ Month. In fact, the Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat explains that this year’s theme is ‘Aging Without Boundaries’ as we mark 30 years of celebrating seniors. It is amazing to see, highlight and recognize the contributions that older adults make to their communities everyday. It is important to acknowledge their achievements and to support their work.
However, the image and concept of ‘senior’ no longer fits today’s older adults. Older adults might not want to be associated with the term ‘senior’ because they believe it really does not reflect them. Negative images predominate and overshadow any positive potential images. Older adults do not want to be labelled and viewed with the negative connotations associated with the term ‘senior’.
This is an issue that needs attention. To truly celebrate older adults, we need new language and new ways to discuss and honour later life and aging. This is one reason why I am producing a documentary film about healthy aging. With this film, more diverse images and positive role models of later life can be shared.
Moreover, as the population ages, it is about more than having a longer lifespan. It is critical to have a longer ‘healthspan’. It is about finding ways to foster adding more life to the gift of years individuals are blessed with. This is why healthy aging is important.
Posted by suzanne on Apr 2, 2014
Our lives are most meaningful in the ways we touch the lives of others. This is the great beauty of life and what provides the deepest meaning and fulfillment.
When we are of an age, how will we continue to associate, interact and engage with others? As we age, some of the best moments are when we are in the company of those who are of a different age. Yet, lives are often lived separately; we segregate the generations to different domains, spheres and social structures. When we separate the ages in our society, we make this special interaction more difficult to achieve.
It is difficult to find suitable language to describe those who are older but are also young at heart. They are seniors and elders in comparison to my age. But I don’t perceive them with the connotation that the word ‘old’ describes. When I get to know them as individuals, their age disappears. In fact, when the generations interact and intermingle, we realize we have much in common after all; any differences evaporate through caring, loving and laughing together.
It is wonderful to see the young inspire the old and the old inspire the young. This is what can be achieved through intergenerational interaction.
Posted by suzanne on Mar 14, 2014
My scholarly article entitled Redirection was recently published in The Gerontologist. In this paper, I discuss the sociological and psychological process of later life career development as an individual enters a new career stage. To date, this has received little attention in the career development field.
Retirement is changing. There is great knowledge, skill and experience that older adults can transfer into new roles. I predict that organizations and communities will begin to recognize this.
The fact is that more people will reach this life stage as life expectancy continues to increase. More individuals will be looking for the next challenge.
What is your next challenge?
Posted by suzanne on Jan 24, 2014
Older adults are lifelong learners. They like to learn new things and there is a need to celebrate the learning of all age groups. This is especially the true for seniors. The myth that older adults don’t like technology is being challenged; more and more older adults are embracing technology.
Often, older adults jump at the chance to be shown how technology can make a difference in their lives and how they can better use it. I hear anecdotal reports of grandchildren teaching a grandparent how to use a cell phone or iPad. The wonders of technology can be taught intergenerationally, as the program Cyber-Seniors and the great new documentary film of the same name indicate.
Older adults’ openness to technology is evident when statistics on technology use are reported. More than half of seniors are on-line. Those age 65 and older use the Internet and email, with technology users usually active on-line on a daily basis. For example, among those seniors who use the Internet, 70% go on-line daily. This breaks stereotypes many of us hold of older adults!
Seniors like to research government websites, obtain financial information, such as stock quotes or check mortgage rates, or search for health information on-line. And 44% of seniors age 65 to 73 watch videos on-line, with 34% of them visiting social media sites. In addition, a large proportion of seniors – 7 out of 10 – own a cell phone. Check out the PEW report on Older Adults and Internet Use.
Stimulating curiosity and intellectual growth and development are the real joys of learning. Grey hair or not, we are all lifelong learners! Sometimes older adults need support and encouragement to try something new. It is time to debunk negative stereotypes of aging and develop more intergenerational programs. There is great joy and vitality when the generations interact. A special opportunity to view Cyber-Seniors is available through the Peterborough International Film Festival this weekend.
Posted by suzanne on Jun 13, 2013
June is important to recognize as Seniors’ Month in Canada. This is good reason and an excellent opportunity for communities to celebrate seniors and the role they play in society, to increase awareness of seniors programs, services and policies and to redefine aging and seniorhood.
Despite the aging population in Canada, unfortunately, there have been few innovative and creative celebrations and events in honour of Seniors’ Month.
One stood out: I attended some of the Seniors’ Month offerings in Peterborough, Ontario. I met some amazing seniors and people who care about seniors. The programs and events in Peterborough were wonderful.
There is a lot happening this month for Peterborough Seniors’ Month. Check it out!
Posted by suzanne on May 31, 2013
June 1st is Intergenerational Day, with more than 100 cities across Canada participating. This day highlights the benefits of intergenerational relationships.
Intergenerational engagement means connecting the generations – not siloing them – and it encourages social inclusion. Young people keep seniors young and seniors provide young people with a broader perspective on their experiences. Social interaction between young and old creates stronger bonds between the generations and breaks negative stereotyping.
Seniors and elders are role models of healthy aging for the younger ages. In fact, my grandfather was my role model. He inspired me in my work.
How are you exploring the ‘intergenerational’ in life? How often do you see the older adults, and those younger than you, who are in your life?
Congratulations Sharon MacKenzie of i2i for excellent work on Intergenerational Day.
Posted by suzanne on May 21, 2013
In my work, I meet seniors regularly, and recently, on separate occasions, I had the privilege of speaking with a 100-year-old woman, a 95-year-old man and a 74-year-old man.
I like speaking with seniors and elders. Our conversations are refreshing and invigorating. The discussion is engaging and stimulating. It is a great joy to speak to interesting individuals with so much to share.
From these conversations, I am reminded that one key to healthy aging is connection. Whether you are an energetic senior or elder or a more frail one, it is important to find the opportunity for connection.
In fact, this is true for human beings across the life course from cradle to grave. I am quite aware that I gain as much from these conversations as the seniors and elders do themselves.
We are social and life is about connection and relationships. It is important that we remind ourselves of this often during our busy lives.
Give your loved ones a squeeze and smile broadly at everyone you meet today – both young and old.