Conference: Connections vital for creative aging

Food writer Sara Dickerman will share her work during Centrum's Creative Aging conference this Friday. (Photo by Sarah Flotard)

PORT TOWNSEND — Connections — with others, with nature — are what Dr. Kristoffer Rhoads hopes people will be inspired to make after this Friday’s Creative Aging conference.

“Cultivating Compassion in the 21st Century” is the theme of this year’s all-online discussion with seven presenters from across the topic map. Centrum of Port Townsend and the Frye Art Museum of Seattle are the hosts from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday; admission is $50 for Centrum donors and $65 for non-donors via For more information, email [email protected]

Rhoads, a University of Washington School of Medicine neuropsychologist who guides mindfulness meditation sessions at the Frye, is a keynote speaker alongside Dr. James Doty, a neurosurgeon.

Doty is the founder of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, and has dedicated his life to studying the link between the human heart and brain.

Rhoads said he looks forward to talking with Doty about how compassion — for oneself and others — can be an antidote to society’s current divisions.

“People are so isolated right now,” Rhoads said, “and that’s wearing on us in a lot of different ways.”

The Creative Aging conference will explore how to cope with the stresses and how to connect with the world, he added.

“Of all of the conferences I go to, this one’s always one of my favorites, just because it is so diverse. It would be hard not to take something excellent away from it,” said Rhoads.

At same time, he realizes the event means more time in front of a screen, and people need to be judicious about that.

“But this has pretty good return on investment,” he said, adding he marvels at the amount of heart conference organizer Mary Jane Knecht pours into the event.

Following the keynote by Doty and Rhoads, the Creative Aging conference speakers are:

• National Geographic photojournalist Hannah Reyes Morales, who will share her “Living Lullabies” project of photos and audio clips from around the world.

• Author, singer and songwriter Michelle Zauner and food writer Sara Dickerman, who will converse about the ties between food, cooking and memory.

• Journalist Lynda V. Mapes, who will explore how older female orcas help young mothers with learning to care for their young, babysitting, and sharing their catch, in her talk titled “The Grandmother Effect.”

• Jay Julius, a fisherman, former Lummi Nation chairman and founder of the nonprofit organization Se’Si’Le, who will discuss his people’s Xa xalh Xechnging, sacred obligation, to the Salish Sea.

Knecht, for her part, expressed her delight in these presenters: people from different disciplines and life experiences getting together around a shared theme.

“This year’s conference is really about the connection between understanding and compassion,” she said.

“I hope people take away a deeper awareness of our shared humanity and how we care for ourselves, each other, and the natural world.”

For more about the conference speakers and the Frye’s range of programs, see Rhoads’ next online mindfulness meditation, offered free this Wednesday, can be accessed via


Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected] news.

Michelle Zauner, author of "Crying in H Mart," is a presenter in Centrum's Creative Aging conference this Friday. (Photo by Barbora Mrazkova)
Journalist Lynda Mapes will share her work during Centrum's Creative Aging conference this Friday.
Dr. Kristoffer Rhoads is a keynote speaker in the online Creative Aging conference this Friday.
Lummi Nation tribal member Jay Julius is among the presenters in this Friday's Creative Aging online conference.
Dr. James Doty is a keynote speaker in the online Creative Aging conference this Friday.
Photographer Hannah Reyes Morales will share her work during Centrum's Creative Aging conference this Friday.

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