The Keck School of Medicine of USC’s new dean shared advice on living the latter years of life to the fullest — and healthiest — with about 1,000 seniors at a conference on aging in Pasadena.

Laura Mosqueda, MD, a nationally recognized expert on gerontology and elder justice, delivered the keynote address at the Pasadena Senior Center’s 2018 Conference on Healthy Aging on April 28. It was her first public engagement since being named dean of the Keck School on April 25. Her appointment became effective May 1.

Too often, people think of the aging process as a “battle” that must be fought, she said. Rather than resist the process of getting older, the goal should be “aging with purpose, grace, meaning and joy.”

And optimal aging requires more than just quality health care, the doctor explained.

“We are not just physical beings,” Mosqueda said. “We’re not just our numbers. We’re not just our physical bodies.”

Social, emotional and environmental factors are critical to aging well.

For example, she said, “We know that people with a sense of purpose have greater longevity and greater cognitive function.”

“Good health care really understands that and where we need to be at that intersection,” Mosqueda said.

She went on to warn against being influenced by the deluge of misleading medical information circling through society every day. “Is the information from a dependable source? Has it been tried on humans?” she asked the audience to consider.

“We get these over-hyped headlines,” she said, pointing to a news article declaring that researchers had reversed Alzheimer’s disease — in mice. “News flash: We’re not mice!”

Mosqueda said the fastest growing segment of the American population is people over 85.

Nonetheless, “We live in an ageist society,” she said. “Ageism is a bizarre prejudice. It’s a prejudice against our future selves.”

Pasadena Senior Center Executive Director Akila Gibbs told the crowd of Mosqueda’s recent selection as the dean of the Keck School to a roar of applause.

“We are incredibly lucky to have her here today. She’s taken time out of her busy schedule because of her commitment to older adults,” Gibbs said.

Bonnie Gonzalez, a 77-year-old Arcadia resident, said she attended the conference to hear Mosqueda’s speech, as well as to take part in several of the many workshops and seminars offered at the conference on topics ranging from avoiding scams to medical marijuana.

“I thought it was excellent. I like the way she injected humor into her talk,” Gonzalez said. “She’s a great choice for dean.”

Mosqueda urged the audience to avoid unnecessary worrying and focus on enjoying life.

“Old age really is a treat. Our ancestors did not have this opportunity. If you were born in 1900, you were probably going to live to be about 46 or 47,” she said. “Let’s be smart and compassionate about how we use this gift of old age.”

— Brian Day