Dave and Elaine Mendelin were living the good life. After tying a bow on their careers in the financial industry, they retired to their "dream home" on the shores of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota. All was going according to plan. But then new and unexpected health issues starting popping up that brought Elaine and Dave to Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus. "I was the first to get referred to Mayo," Elaine tells us. Dave followed, in need of a new hip and a new knee.
During the couple's many trips to and from Mayo, a funny thing began to happen. Though they'd spent years dreaming about spending their retirement years on Minnesota's North Shore, Elaine and Dave began "falling in love" with Mayo Clinic and the city of Rochester. "We knew our health challenges would likely only continue as we got older, so we decided it probably wasn't right for us to be living in the rural north," Elaine says. "So we moved to Rochester."
One of the first things they did on becoming full-fledged Rochesterites was to focus on the thing that first brought them to town: their health. "I wasn't able to do a lot for the previous couple of years before getting my new knee and hip. So I was in pretty rough shape," Dave says. "But I got through the surgeries and then realized I've got to do something to get this extra weight off."
Dave and Elaine decided to go through that journey together. Elaine brought home a brochure for the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program. Skeptical at first due to having tried "numerous other diets and exercise programs to no avail," the couple signed up for the Mayo Clinic Diet Experience. Twelve months later, they say the results are both measureable and immeasurable. "Both Dave and I enjoyed significant weight loss," Elaine says. "Dave lost 66 pounds and I lost 35, for a total of more than 100 pounds. Dave's waist is now 6½ inches smaller, and mine has shrunk 5.7 inches."
That isn't all. "With the weight loss and following the Mayo Clinic Diet program also came notable improvements in our body mass index, cholesterol and cardiovascular functions," Elaine says. "We both feel stronger and more physically fit than we have in years."
After completing the program, Dave and Elaine felt so grateful they wanted to do something to give back. The answer was right in front of their eyes. Last November, they became official Mayo Clinic volunteers. "We're wayfinders," Elaine says. Twice a week, the couple walks the downtown campus "looking for 'lost souls' — patients and visitors who need directions or for us to take them to wherever they need to go."
It's just the kind of ongoing exercise program they were looking for, and one that Dave says doesn't feel like exercise at all. "Most mornings, I'll hit 15,000 steps by 9 a.m.," he tells us. "We're getting our steps in while getting a chance to visit with some of the nicest people from all over the world. It's incredibly gratifying work."
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