AgeLab and Tivity Health Host Fitness, Food, and Friends Symposium
by Adam Felts
The MIT AgeLab and Tivity Health hosted a daylong symposium at MIT’s Samberg Conference Center on the role of nutrition, physical fitness, and social connection for the health and wellbeing of older adults. Titled “Food, Fitness, and Friends: Innovative Business Solutions for Healthy Aging,” the symposium focused on how businesses are integrating their products and services across domains to create comprehensive health and wellness platforms for older consumers.
Following opening remarks from AgeLab Director Joseph Coughlin and Tivity Health CEO Donato Tramuto, the symposium began with a special panel of the Lifestyle Leaders, a group of AgeLab research participants ages 85 and older who live in the Boston area. Maggie Lettvin, Klaus Lowenstein and Bernard Wax discussed their activities and motivations for aging well to age 85 and beyond, touching on topics of diet, home modification, romantic relationships, caregiving, and Maggie Lettvin’s career as a televised fitness instructor. The panel was moderated by MIT AgeLab researcher Julie Miller.
The symposium then turned to three panels of experts and business leaders in the areas of nutrition, physical fitness, and social engagement. The first of these panels, titled “Physical Fitness for a New Generation: It’s Not Just Calisthenics,” featured Maria Giné-Garriga, professor at Universitat Ramon Llull in Barcelona, Spain; Elizabeth Rula, Executive Director of Research at Tivity Health; and Bill Phillips, fitness journalist and current editor-in-chief of Linkwell Health. Moderated by MIT AgeLab researcher Samantha Brady, the panel discussed relationships between social motivation and fitness behavior, the inadequacy of common stereotypes about the sorts of physical activities that older adults participate in, and how physical activity helps lessen age-related decline.
The second panel, titled “Food and Nutrition for a New Age,” included Dawn Zier, President and Chief Operating Officer of Tivity Health (Zier is the former CEO of Nutrisystem, which was acquired by Tivity Health in March); Dena Kowaloff, Director of Marketing at Roche Bros. Supermarkets; and Meredith Boyle, Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Mather LifeWays. The panel described innovative modes of food service and delivery that blend together food service, social engagement, and compelling activities and experiences. The panel was moderated by AgeLab researcher Lisa D’Ambrosio.
The third panel, titled “Social Connections, Old and New,” included Leslie Courtney, Executive Vice President of Client Success at Papa. Inc.; Andrew Dowling, founder and CEO of Stitch; and Philip Suiter, Vice President and Chief Wellness Officer at Walmart Health. With Tivity Health Vice President of Product David Bartley serving as moderator, the panel outlined technological platforms designed to facilitate social engagement both among older adults and across generations.
AgeLab Director Joseph Coughlin closed the symposium by noting the optimistic character of the day. The event demonstrated that many businesses are embracing the opportunity to provide and integrate products, services, and experiences to address the health and wellness needs of a radically new cohort of older consumers.