Melanie is finding purpose in retirement

Liz Miller

Melanie is finding purpose in retirement

Melanie Polk, a Blue Choice health plan member, is a registered dietitian nutritionist who recently relocated to the Jacksonville area at 69 years old.

“I loved my career and am a relatively new retiree. I relocated from DC, where I lived the past 20 years, to North Florida. The moving van came and packed me up the Monday after I officially retired.”
Melanie teaching a class.

Thanks to GetSetUp’s partnership with ElderSource in the area, Melanie came across a GetSetUp ad on Facebook almost right away.

Retirement has been a bit of an adjustment for Melanie. After having an extensive career as a nutrition educator, media spokesperson, public speaker, and nutrition counselor, adjusting to so much free time has been different. Now she is nowhere near as busy as when she was a Director of Nutrition Education for the American Institute for Cancer Research or on the faculty at the University of Connecticut.

It only seemed natural that she would volunteer in retirement teaching what she always loved: nutrition. For the last 14 years of her career, she was the Director of the Senior Nutrition Program, where she oversaw more than 40 congregate and home-delivered meals programs, along with nutrition education and counseling to more than 6,000 seniors.

A natural next step was to bring the latest nutrition research to GetSetUp in the session Nutrition Facts & Fallacies. This group discusses practical strategies that can be applied to everyone's daily lives to lower disease risk and promote health -- without ever forgetting the joy of eating! Melanie brings her insights weekly on Wednesday to this event to help learners understand fact from fiction.

“I want people to get involved in their nutrition. It’s extremely important throughout life but especially as we age. In my group, we understand nutrition facts and help to correct misinformation that may be circulating.”

So many Learners find her expertise indispensable. As Suzy R. says,

“Almost since the inception of this group, I’ve attended Melanie’s sessions, and I keep returning because I’ve learned so much from her as I continue on my 'healthy living' journey! Being a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Melanie is a wealth of knowledge and is so willing to share that knowledge. Because there is much conflicting information to be found on the internet, Melanie is good at coaching us on how to find reliable information."
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Melanie is finding purpose in retirement
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Understanding nutrition misinformation

In this interest group, Melanie uses her background to teach others how to critically look at the information they receive regarding nutrition. There are multiple ways to assess how reliable the information is when looking at facts and figures.

  1. Check who is paying for the study.  If a soy company paid for a study saying soy was good, be cautious. See if the study has been replicated by someone not associated with soy.
  2. How old is the study? While not all older research is inaccurate if a study is older than 10 years, consider looking for more recent information to see if it is still accurate.
  3. How many people participated in the research?  Consider if a large enough sample size of people participated in a study to make it relevant. If the study surveyed only a couple hundred people in regards to food, that may be too few. Especially considering if the demographic wasn’t very broad or from the same region. Generally studies that sample at least 1,000 people or more are considered more reputable.
  4. Is your demographic represented in the study? Make sure the research represents your demographic whether that includes age, gender, or ethnicity it's important to find a representative sample of research.
  5. Is the research from a reputable source? Research should be backed up by academic peer-reviewed journals.  Just finding something on the internet doesn’t make it reputable. Consider if you can find the research on the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietary Guidelines For Americans. While these aren’t the only reputable sources they are a good place to start.

“GetSetUp has given me a chance to use my knowledge and gives some structure to my group. It’s given me a really good opportunity already at the beginning of my retirement to do something that I consider really important.”

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Melanie first started taking classes in March. Considering the pandemic and her recent spine surgery, GetSetUp was just what she needed. She used that time to take classes on technology-related classes on Zoom and her iPhone.

“Since I was a director at work, I could delegate what I didn’t want to do. Lots of times I delegated the technology I didn’t know as well. It wasn’t a smart thing to have done. Here I am retired now and I lack the skills I need to pursue things I want to do.”

Despite the fact that ‘tech is not her thing’ she is learning it.

“If I had to do the end of my career over again I’d force myself to learn tech skills. I think that one motivation lacking now is that I don’t need to use these skills regularly.”

Even as life is getting back to normal after the pandemic Melanie still hosts her interest group weekly. She also enjoys other classes on the site like tai chi.

“I love the idea that you can look at the schedule and take whatever looks interesting. There is a beautiful variety of options.”

Melanie knows that even though she's getting back out into the Florida sunshine now, when she needs something to do at home, GetSetUp will be there with a community of friends and fun classes waiting.

“I think GetSetUp is fabulous. Plus, now I see you all over the place too!”

Join Melanie’s group to learn about nutrition or take another fun-filled class with mature adults peers and see where GetSetUp can take you!

Join a class

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