Aging is an inevitable part of life, yet how we age is something we have some degree of control over.
Filling our time with curiosity, growth, and meaningful connections can have a tremendous effect on our overall well being at any age of life, but especially in our golden years.
To that end, research and anecdotal experience alike show that factors such as lifelong learning, social engagement, and the practice of mindfulness can serve as key benefits towards healthy aging.
“Learning is important in life. It’s something to get us up in the morning and out to meet people,” said Isabelle Philippe, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute Program Manager for the UC San Diego Division of Extended Studies.
Due to the value of these factors for healthy aging, two UC San Diego affiliated programs will be hosting valuable open-to-the-public events geared towards engaging seniors in lifelong learning and social engagement towards a healthy lifestyle.
The first event is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute’s (OLLI) Fall Open House on Saturday, September 30, 2023, at the UC San Diego Extended Studies La Jolla campus. The second event is the 2023 Symposium of the UC San Diego Center for Healthy Aging at UC San Diego Park & Market on Friday, October 6, 2023.
Both events offer important opportunities to learn more about healthy aging, as well as the opportunities to engage with lifelong learning, social connections, and mindfulness towards healthy and rewarding senior lives.
Lifelong Learning and Socialization for Healthy Aging
Since 1974, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute has been offering classes and events for people ages 50+ on topics such as science, health, creative writing, current events, music, theater, and more.
This diverse curriculum appeals to a wide range of interests, ensuring that everyone can find something that aligns with their values and passions.
Yet lifelong learning is not just about acquiring new skills; it’s about staying mentally agile, exploring diverse interests, and igniting the spark of curiosity that keeps us young at heart.
“Bernard Osher, the founder, was somebody who really believed in the value of learning and being a lifelong learner for a rewarding life,” said Philippe.
“By coming to OLLI you have the opportunity to get lectures on different topics from great university professors almost every day. It stimulates your brain so you can stay sharp and still be in the loop on what’s going on in the world.”
Philippe emphasizes the social aspect of OLLI too.
“When we get older, sometimes people feel lonely,” said Philippe. “These classes can be a means for people to meet and mingle. That’s an important aspect of intellectual stimulation as well.“
Danielle Glorioso, Executive Director of the UC San Diego Center for Healthy Aging and the Stein Institute for Research on Aging, echoes these statements.
“We know that social engagement is linked to longevity,” said Glorioso. “If you have people getting together and connecting on topics that are important to them, that certainly promotes longevity. The in-person lectures are especially valuable for bringing people together so they can connect, talk, and ask questions.”
The upcoming Fall Open House on September 30, 2023, is a great opportunity to learn more and get involved with OLLI.
Open House attendees will hear from current members and volunteer leaders while enjoying light refreshments and exploring committee tables representing the range of upcoming classes and seminars.
For more information about the Open House and to register to attend, visit: extendedstudies.ucsd.edu/olli/membership/open-house
Mindfulness for Healthy Aging
Aging gracefully is not just about external appearances but also about inner peace and well-being too. For this reason, activities associated with the Buddhist practice of mindfulness are more and more becoming recognized as important tools towards healthy aging.
If you aren’t familiar with mindfulness, at its core it’s about embracing being over doing. It teaches us to sit with discomfort, observe it, and let it pass, ultimately giving us the power to decide how we want to respond to life’s challenges.
“It’s a way of being present with your experience as it unfolds from moment to moment,” explained Cassandra Vieten, PhD, Director of the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness. “There’s less judgment, less resistance, less fighting what you don’t like from moment to moment, and instead just letting things be as they are.”
Yet mindfulness is a practice that’s much easier said than done.
“Most of us are constantly fighting with ourselves internally,” continues Vieten. “We have this ongoing narrative in our heads that causes us a lot of stress. Stress was really made in our bodies to help us deal with threats, like the fight-flight instinct, but now we get that fight-flight response when our coffee is late or when we’re stuck in traffic. It doesn’t do anything to help us with survival. It just causes more stress.”
The idea is that by practicing mindfulness we can decrease the level of stress we experience in our lives. This can take away unneeded strain from our minds and bodies, and enable us to stay physically and mentally healthier as we age.
Another benefit of mindfulness is it can improve resilience and help us cope with the struggles associated with aging, such as the loss of purpose or identity from work, not being physically able to do things we previously enjoyed, coping with health issues, or the loss of loved ones.
“People with high resilience levels live longer than those who don’t,” said Glorioso. “There’s a lot of research out there that supports this. The Center for Healthy Aging even developed a program to enhance resilience, wisdom, and compassion for older adults. We’ve studied that for many years.”
A Symposium on Healthy Aging
Another opportunity to explore the important factors of health aging is the upcoming 2023 Symposium of the UC San Diego Center for Healthy Aging, hosted at UC San Diego Park & Market in downtown San Diego on Friday, October 6, 2023.
“Our Symposium is an example of our commitment to putting research happening in the field of healthy longevity out to the community for free,” said Glorioso.
Through speakers and discussion, this symposium will be exploring many of the aspects of healthy aging mentioned above, including social engagement, lifelong learning, and mindfulness.
“This year’s topic is healthy longevity,” said Glorioso. “It’s a jam-packed day of presenters from the UC campus that work on aging and also some national level speakers.”
This event features keynote speaker, Dr. Laura Carstensen, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity. It also includes talks and panel discussions with local and national experts.
It’s an immersive experience designed to empower individuals with the knowledge and tools to make informed decisions about their health and well-being in the advanced years of their lives. It’s also free and open to the public.
“It’s usually very well-attended,” shared Glorioso. “It brings community members, aging stakeholders, staff, and faculty. We get a really well-rounded group of people that attend.”
By offering such events, the Center for Healthy Aging and UC San Diego Extended Studies bridge the gap between scientific research and the public, empowering individuals to make informed choices about their health and aging.
Aging gracefully is not just about the passage of time; it’s about how we embrace the journey.
By participating in lifelong learning, embracing mindfulness, and being part of a vibrant community, seniors can unlock the secrets to not just living longer but living better.
To learn more about the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute visit: extendedstudies.ucsd.edu/olli/home
To learn more about the Center for Healthy Aging & Stein Institute for Research in Aging visit: healthyaging.ucsd.edu/
To learn more about the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness visit: cih.ucsd.edu/mindfulness