MAY 24
9:00 A.M. - 4:00 P.M ET

Innovations in Healthy Aging 2023 Summit
Building Resiliency with Healthy Aging Research

The University of Arizona is hosting its second annual Innovations in Healthy Aging Summit, a free, one-day hybrid event on May 24, 2023, in order to create collaborative partnerships between government, academia, and industry that support high-impact research and link educational pathways to workforce needs.

Scholars, together with leaders in the aging field from regulators, practitioners, researchers, and administrators, will discuss cutting-edge collaborative research that meets the needs of older adults.

The summit aims to share current research, generate new ideas, and foster partnerships that will lead to the development of innovative solutions to the challenges and opportunities of healthy aging.

Social Isolation and Belonging
Smart and Adaptive Built Environments
Improving the Healthspan

Featured Panel Discussions



Our speakers include representatives from Grantmakers In Aging, the National Institutes of Health and the University of Arizona, among others.




Innovations in Healthy Aging 2023 Summit
Building Resiliency with Healthy Aging Research

  • 9:00AM - 9:10AM


    Continental Breakfast
  • 9:10AM - 9:45AM

    Welcome and Opening Remarks

    Summit Welcome and Introduction

    Tara Sklar, JD, Faculty Director, Health Law & Policy, Arizona Law, University of Arizona and Senior Advisor for Innovations in Healthy Aging

    Opening Remarks

    Kathleen Insel, PhD, RN, Professor and Interim Dean, College of Nursing and Director, Innovations in Healthy Aging, University of Arizona

    Introducing the Coit Center for Longevity and Neurotherapeutics

    Rick G. Schnellmann, PhD, Dean Endowed Chair, R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy; Professor, Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Arizona

    Mark Kelly, United States Senator of Arizona
    Leveraging Resources and Networks to Support Healthy Aging Research

    Lindsay A. Goldman, LMSW, Chief Executive Officer, Grantmakers In Aging

  • 9:45AM - 10:10AM

    Arts and Aging: Enhancing Well-Being through Creative Engagement

    Sydney Streightiff, MM, Doctoral Student, Applied Intercultural Arts Research, College of Fine Arts, University of Arizona

    Tyler Meier, MFA, Executive Director, University of Arizona Poetry Center

    Studies have shown that participating in the arts can have a positive impact on quality of life and overall well-being for older individuals. The benefits of creative practices include enhanced cognitive abilities, improved memory, increased self-esteem, reduced stress, and increased social interactions. Speakers discuss how engaging in creative activities can lead to a healthier aging experience.

  • 10:10AM - 11:40AM

    Session 1
    Social Isolation and Belonging


    Tyler Meier, MFA, Executive Director, University of Arizona Poetry Center

    Project 1: Virtual Experiences to Reduce Loneliness and Psychosocial Distress Among Older Black Church Members

    Kelly Palmer, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Promotion Sciences, College of Public Health; and Associate Director, UAHS Health Disparities Research Center, University of Arizona


    Social isolation and loneliness are major public health concerns that have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic in recent years. Project 1 seeks to address these concerns through the development and implementation of culturally responsive, spirituality/religiosity-based virtual experiences to increase social connectedness and physical activity, while reducing loneliness, social isolation and psychosocial distress among older black church members.

    Project 2: Exploring and Identifying Communities Where I Belong: Arts-Based, Person-Centered Book Making Workshop

    Yumi Shirai, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Arizona


    As the life expectancy for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) continues to increase, their support and health advocacy needs often become more complex. At the same time, they are outliving their lifelong family caregivers who often hold key personal information. Project 2 provides a novel solution to the needs of aging adults with IDD, creating a key document to provide caregivers with the information needed to ensure that not only their healthcare needs are met but also to reflect their important personal and cultural connections that are a critical part of their community living.

  • 11:40AM - 12:20pM


  • 12:20PM - 1:50PM

    Session 2
    Smart and Adaptive Built Environments


    Nancy Pollock-Ellwand, PhD, FCSLA, Dean, College of Architecture, Planning & Landscape Architecture and Professor, Landscape Architecture, University of Arizona

    Project 1: Personal Thermal Comfort Management and Minimized Building Energy Consumption via Ambient Light Exposure for Optimal Thermal Comfort in Older Adults

    J. Ray Runyon, Ph.D., Assistant Research Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Arizona


    Thermal comfort within buildings can significantly affect health, including physiological stress levels, sleep quality and productivity, when outside the comfort range. Impacts on sleep quality and stress are known to in turn impact cognitive performance, an important impact in older adults. Project 1 examines the impact of ambient lighting on perceived thermal comfort in older adults and its effects on building energy consumption.

    Project 2: The Virtual Supermarket: A New Environment for Studying Spatial Behavior in Healthy Aging and Disease

    Paul Hill, Ph.D., Research Scientist, Department of Psychology, College of Science, University of Arizona


    In healthy, cognitively unimpaired individuals, spatial navigation challenges can foreshadow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) years before clinical symptoms emerge. Recent progress in immersive VR technology presents a unique opportunity to examine the impact of cognitive aging on spatial behavior in freely moving humans in a “supermarket” that they have never visited before. Project 2 examines the nature of spatial deficits in older adults and those at risk for AD. By combining state-of-the-art VR with integrated eye tracking, body-tracking, and haptic technology, the virtual supermarket will provide unprecedented insights into the impact of age on spatial behavior.

  • 1:50PM - 2:00PM

    Break/Awe Interlude

  • 2:00 - 2:10PM

    Introducing the Coit Center for Longevity and Neurotherapeutics

    Rick G. Schnellmann, PhD, Dean Endowed Chair, R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy; Professor, Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Arizona

  • 2:10PM - 3:40PM

    Session 3
    Improving the Healthspan


    Carol Barnes, PhD, Professor, Psychology and Director, Evelyn F McKnight Brain Institute, University of Arizona

    Project 1: Tumor-Specific T-cell Responses in Skin Cancer with Aging

    Janko Nikolich, MD, PhD, Professor and Department Head, Department of Immunobiology, College of Medicine and Co-Director, Arizona Center on Aging, University of Arizona


    The ability to generate effective immune responses declines with age. Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC) is a common cancer with the potential for serious illness and death, and the risk of developing cSCC increases with age. Project 1 seeks to examine the defects in antitumor immunity with age using a new mouse cancer model to detect T cells that recognize and control mouse cSCC tumors.

    Project 2: Treatment of Language in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) Combining Behavioral Therapy with Noninvasive Neuromodulation Informed by Measures of Neural Responsiveness

    Aneta Kielar, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, College of Science, University of Arizona


    A lesser-known subvariant of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) causes a type of language decline known as logopenic variant primary progressive aphasia (lvPPA). In contrast to typical AD, promising existing research demonstrates that behavioral intervention can improve or slow the loss of language abilities in lvPPA. Project 2 seeks to advance this line of research by pairing evidence-based language treatment with the neuromodulation effects of noninvasive transcranial direct current stimulation and structural and functional MRI to target specific regions of the brain.

  • 3:40PM - 4:00PM

    Concluding Remarks

    From Vision to Reality: Collaborating for Breakthroughs in Research

    Esther Sternberg, MD, Professor, Medicine; Inaugural Andrew Weil Chair for Research in Integrative Medicine and Associate Director for Biomedical and Environmental Research, Innovations in Healthy Aging

    Mindy Fain, MD, Professor, Medicine and Nursing; Co-Director, Arizona Center on Aging and Associate Director for Education, Care and Community Research, Innovations in Healthy Aging