“I became a registered dietitian at the birth of the whole foods, ecology movement and have supported community-based initiatives throughout my career,” says Karen Jackson-Holzhauer, MA, RD, FADA, who works in Southfield, Mich., for the Area Agency on Aging 1-B. The belief that nourishing food is the centerpiece of wellness has shaped her career in healthy aging.
Jackson-Holzhauer manages nutrition services at AAA-1B, which provides meal delivery to individuals’ homes, senior centers, elder housing and other community venues. She also serves on the board of the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs to advocate and serve the needs of older adults, and has volunteered with the American Heart Association helping launch grocery store tours and cooking classes.
An interest in food as preventative medicine, coupled with a desire to understand a family history of early-onset heart disease, sparked Jackson's decision to study nutrition. You might say it runs in the family.
“My mother was a nurse and interested in healthy eating. My paternal grandmother was a volunteer community dietitian during World War II for the Red Cross chapter in Michigan, and my maternal grandmother worked at the Kellogg’s Sanitarium in Battle Creek with my great aunt,” says Jackson-Holzhauer, who adds that when she and her father sampled the raw vegetables they grew in their backyard, he would describe his own garden education experience as a child in Henry Ford’s community garden program in the 1930’s.
Jackson-Holzhauer credits her mentor, registered dietitian Marqueta C. Huyck at Wayne State University in Detroit, for igniting her passion to work with older adults in the 1970s—leading to what Jackson calls a life-long learning path in the study of healthy aging. Already having earned a master’s degree in diabetes education, Jackson’s desire to explore the “medicalization” of aging and the global rise in diabetes inspired her to pursue a second graduate degree, this one in medical anthropology.
“I had a lot of questions about the culture of medicine and the social, political, historical and economic forces that affect it,” Jackson-Holzhauer says, “and about “the repositioning of nutrition in the medical world. I examined how people make decisions about what is healthy, and who makes these decisions, and was challenged as an anthropologist to understand from a cross-cultural perspective how people approach the future and the role of hope as a motivating factor in the choices they make.”