Melissa Morris: “It’s never too late to make new friends”

It’s never too late to make new friends. Social isolation is a concern for older adults so staying engaged and social is important for your mental, physical, and emotional health. As a part of my series about the “5 Things You Should Do to Optimize Your Wellness After Retirement”, I had the pleasure of interviewing […]

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It’s never too late to make new friends. Social isolation is a concern for older adults so staying engaged and social is important for your mental, physical, and emotional health.

As a part of my series about the “5 Things You Should Do to Optimize Your Wellness After Retirement”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Morris.

Melissa is an Assistant Teaching Professor at the University of Tampa and life insurance expert and writer for She currently mostly works with undergraduate students but still has a passion for working with older adults in the community.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I always knew I wanted to work in either health or education because I enjoyed my high school and college classes that related to these areas. They were easy for me and I enjoyed learning as much as I could. I was fortunate enough to find a career that includes both of those areas. My education and work experiences prepared me well for my current teaching job.

In my writing job for I am able to research and write about topics that relate to health and insurance, plus keeps my writing skills updated. I hope that I instill my passion for health, nutrition, and physical activity in my students and those who are reading my articles.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I was in my early 20’s when I first started my career and I worked with a lot of people who were much older than me. I think many of them doubted my knowledge and expertise and I really had to overcome a lot the first few years. Once I proved myself (and it took time), they recognized my value. Now that I’m much more experienced I try to remember that when working with my students and other younger adults. Yes, you should have to prove yourself when you are new but we also shouldn’t be so quick to judge others.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

I made so many mistakes when I was first starting out that it’s hard to just choose one! One of the biggest mistakes I made early in my career was saying “yes” to almost every opportunity and would overschedule myself on occasion.

I think the key to mistakes is learning and growing from them. For this example, it can be important to say “no” and include time to take care of yourself, like eating healthy, exercising, or participating in a hobby. You can still work hard but include better work-life balance. I still struggle with this on occasion but am much better at work-life balance than I was when I was younger.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My Dad and Grandma were my two biggest cheerleaders. They always encouraged me to follow my passions and supported me down my career path. I had some bumps in the road along my career path but they told me that I would find my way and encouraged me to keep working hard to achieve my goals.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

Staying active is one of the best keys to staying healthy and optimizing well-being. Sometimes we get so busy that a workout is the first thing to go, but for me the activity is the key to managing stress and enhancing my mental health. Even on a busy day, a 30-minute walk can revive and refresh.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

Flexibility and support are important for creating a good work culture. My colleagues at the University of Tampa are extremely encouraging and supportive. We have a great deal of respect and support within my department. I feel fortunate to be surrounded by hard working, intelligent, and support colleagues.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In some cases, retirement can reduce health, and in others it can improve health. From your point of view or experience, what are a few of the reasons that retirement can reduce one’s health?

Retirement can have positive or negative effects on health. Retirees may find more time to engage in exercise or physical activity, they may have more time for volunteering, or they may spend more time doing hobbies or socializing.

The downside is that retirement can have negative effects on health too. Sometimes retirees pick up so many extra activities (socializing, hobbies, or volunteering) that they have less time to exercise or cook healthy meals. Retirees may also find they have a less scheduled day and more free time, which can make it easier to waste time and more difficult to stay productive. Our job or career also keeps us engaged in cognitive activities, so without that it can be easier to forgo activities that improve brain health.

Can you share with our readers 5 things that one should do to optimize their wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.

Staying active, eating healthy, socializing, following medical advice, and practicing cognitive activities are important to optimize wellness after retirement.

Staying active is vital. Exercise, especially strength training, keeps bones and muscles strong and healthy. Walking, jogging, and dancing are also weight bearing activities that help maintain bone mineral density too.

Eating a healthy well-balanced diet ensures you are getting plenty of protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and heart-healthy fats. Protein, fiber, and certain vitamins and minerals are super important as we get older and a balanced diet will provide us with those nutrients.

Socializing is another important key to enhance wellness. Socializing is important for mental and emotional health and keeps us engaged with friends and family members.

Keeping up with medical advice and appointments is also important. This can mean following recommendations for medical appointments, advice from health care professionals, and taking medications as recommended.

Cognitive activities help prevent cognitive decline and keep your brain active. Crossword puzzles, learning a new hobby, or taking a class are all great ways to keep up with cognitive activities.

In your experience, what are 3 or 4 things that people wish someone told them before they retired?

Life insurance is very important as we get older. Those who have children and families should have ample life insurance coverage.

Retirement is a great time to get a new routine dedicated to health and wellness. Exercise and healthy eating are two areas that anyone can take some small steps that can have big impact on health.

It’s never too late to make new friends. Social isolation is a concern for older adults so staying engaged and social is important for your mental, physical, and emotional health.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Privilege, Power, and Difference by Allan Johnson. I think everyone should read this book to understand the dynamics of inequality, privilege, and how those affect our daily lives. I read it as part of my doctoral program but still look back at the book from time-to-time. There are so many insightful quotes, one of my favorites is “There is no such thing as doing nothing. There is no such thing as neutral or uninvolved. At every moment, social life involves all of us.”

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Be kind and smile. You never know when a simple smile or just asking about someone’s day can really help improve their mood or outlook.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Uncomfortable situations provide the most growth and opportunity. I recently ran my fastest mile ever and I’m 40 years old. It was a very uncomfortable 7 minutes and 46 seconds, but I told myself to get comfortable with being uncomfortable because I didn’t want to give up.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would love to have a meal or conversation with Michelle Obama. She is an authentic leader in every way. I’ve read her book and think she is a fascinating and intelligent woman.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

My Instagram is @azdmelissa and my LinkedIn is

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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