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January 31, 2018

Top Aging Influencers to Know

NextAvenue.org has named its aging Influencer of the Year – and it’s Elizabeth Blackburn, the president at Salk Institute and the Irwin M. Jacobs Presidential Chair. When asked if she could change one thing about aging in

 America, she said the following: “I would remind everyone that telomere science has shown us how much we are connected, and at so many levels — from the 

macro to the micro and from the societal to the cellular — and that how we interact with and support each other affects the way we age. Compassion is critical.”

“Telomere” isn’t necessarily a household word. But, it simply means the protective ends of chromosomes, and Blackburn dedicates her researching efforts to determine how they might predict aging and the associated processes. This research caused her to win a Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine, along with two colleagues.

When she first began her research, she was one of a “slim minority of women in the male-dominated world of scientific research.” In January 2016, she became the first female president of the Salk Institute, described as scientists who “push the frontiers of discovery in fields such as cancer, neuroscience, aging and plant biology.”

When asked how people can gain more years of good health, she recommends regular exercise, a nutritious diet, getting enough sleep, appropriately managing stress and engaging in enjoyable social interactions. She believes that, in the relatively near future, telomere maintenance will become part of medicine to “provide better diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers. These will guide optimal, personalized strategies for delaying the onset of chronic disease and extending healthspan.”

You can find out plenty more about her in Next Avenue’s interview with Blackburn.

Although Blackburn is the aging Influencer of the Year, 49 other people were acknowledged as important aging influencers, with Gretchen Alkema being chosen for her efforts in leading advocacy for elder care. She is the vice president of policy and communications at The SCAN Foundation, a non-profit agency promoting independent and dignified aging.

When asked what she would change about aging in America, if she could, Alkema said this: “Each day we are all living, until the day we die. Therefore, I hope Americans of all ages fully embrace Soren Kierkegaard’s words, ‘Life [and hence, aging] is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.’”

You can find more information about her in the NextAvenue.org article under the Health & Well-Being tab.

We also wanted to applaud Rabbi Laura Geller, the Emerita Rabbi of Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills. She is working towards the creation of a new intergenerational village where adults can age in place at home “with the support of a loving and interdependent community.” There are currently 180 members in her village, with ages ranging from 55 to 95.

Here is her wish for America: “I would encourage the creation of religious and secular rituals to mark transitions in the journey of growing older, whether closing a family home, becoming a grandparent, reaffirming marital vows, sharing ethical wills or beginning new adventures. Marking transformations provide spiritual and practical guides for growth, connection and wise aging.”

You can find more information about her in the NextAvenue.org article under the Living and Learning tab.

There is information about 47 other passionate influencers in the article, categorized under the following tabs: Health & Well-Being; Money & Security; Work & Purpose; Living & Learning and Caregiving. You can read the information about the influencers in the areas that interest you – or read them all. Each has a unique vision for America that, if taken together, truly would revolutionize what it means to age in the United States.

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