Models for the future
Nobody doubts that retirement is a state in a state of change. The disagreement is over how soon and how radical the change will be. Maggie Kuhn -- founder and still leader, a decade later, of the Gray Panthers -- speaks with the optimism and impatience of an exuberant activist. David H. Fischer -- professor of history and author of "Growing Old in America" -- sees "the beginnings of a glacial change in attitudes." But he cautions against expecting too much, too soon.
The Kuhn scenario presents the agenda of an activist, the due bill for the future. The Fischer scenario offers the perspective of a historian. Kuhn and Fischer are persuasive debaters of the revolutionary vs. the evolutionary theories of retirement in the future.
In an extended conversation Maggie Kuhn offered The Christian Science Monitor her perspective on how today's dominant view of retirement came about:
"The Sun Cities, the Leisure Worlds have attracted the well-to-do wha have bought the myth that old age is play time and nap time, not a time to be engaged. The growth of those retirement communities is really a product of the disengagement theory.
"The disengagement theory was postulated about 40 years ago by two white middle-aged men in Kansas, Cummings and Henry. They based their theory on a very small sample of 200 white middle-aged Kansas males. They said the way in which you age successfully is to disengage yourself from what you have been doing is society all your life, and for society to disengage for you.
"The theory got into the thinking of millions, and it became the rationale, the philosophical basis for public policy that is age-segregated.
"There is some evidence that people are turning from it."
Miss Kuhn also offers her vision of what the retirement future will and ought to be:
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