Skip to main content

Longevity and Healthy Aging Virtual Symposium separates facts from fiction

Oct. 26, 2023, 8:23 AM


by Danny Bonvissuto

Aging in the age of too much information can be overwhelming. For every article you read about sleep, exercise, diet or medicine, there’s another that says the opposite. This intersection of fact and fiction inspired the free Longevity and Healthy Aging Virtual Symposium 2023, 10- and 15-minute talks presented by the Osher Collaborative for Integrative Health, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 3.

“Aging is a complex process influenced by a myriad of factors, including genetics, lifestyle and environmental exposures. Misinformation can lead people to make choices that are not only ineffective but potentially harmful,” said Melinda Ring, MD, executive director of the Osher Center for Integrative Health at Northwestern University. “In an era where ‘anti-aging’ products and ‘miracle cures’ are widely marketed, it’s crucial to have an evidence-based understanding of what actually contributes to healthy aging and longevity. This is not just about debunking myths; it’s about empowering individuals to make informed decisions that can positively impact their quality of life as they age.”

Michelle Foote Pearce, DMin, MA, MSN, RN, LPC-MHSP, NCC

From 9:30 to 9:45 a.m., Ring will cover the science behind food and longevity in her talk “Nourish to Flourish: Understanding Nutrition for Optimal Aging.” From 11:20 to 11:30 a.m., Michelle Foote Pearce, DMin, MA, MSN, RN, LPC-MHSP, NCC, director of Osher Mindfulness Programs and Outreach at the Osher Center for Integrative Health at Vanderbilt, will speak on “Meditation and the Youthful Mind.”

“Intentional mindfulness meditation practices can be both formal (dedicated time and space for sitting, standing, moving) and informal (the way we bring attention to everyday activities). The common denominator is awareness,” she said. “When someone asked the Buddha what he was, he stated simply ‘awake.’ We might use the term ‘awakeness’ for the intentional strengthening of awareness to what is arising both internally — self-awareness, and externally — awakeness to other and the world without judgement or conflict. The opposite of awakeness is asleep, functioning from old default habits and reactive patterns without choice or intention. The person who is awake has greater clarity, wisdom and insight.”

Foote Pearce, who worked as a CNS in Oncology for a decade before moving to integrative psychology, is transitioning into retirement herself, though she finds that it looks different, more active and engaged from past ideas of what retirement means.

“My cohort of ‘boomers’ are choosing to stay active, engaged and more youthful as they age, and we know now that aging does not have to mean declining,” she said. “More recent discoveries in the neurosciences point to the capacity of the brain for neuroplasticity and change throughout life. Mindfulness meditation is one way to intentionally change the functioning of the brain to enable more healthy patterns for connection and well-being even as it ages. Our world is clearly in a time of crisis and needs the experience, wisdom and clarity of the older generations now more than ever.”

The Osher Collaborative is comprised of 11 academic health centers from around the world. Click here for the full agenda and to register for this free event. Those who register will receive access to the recorded talks after the meeting.

Recent Stories from VUMC News and Communications Publications

Vanderbilt Medicine
VUMC Voice