An initiative of The N.C. Center for Health & Wellness at UNC Asheville

Healthy Aging NC Stories

Alyne (69), Janice (73), and Judith (76) participated in one of Healthy Aging NC’s evidence-based programs, a Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention program held at the Tsali Manor Senior Center in Cherokee in the spring/summer of 2019.   Here’s what they had to say about their experience.

Q: What interested you in participating in this Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention program?

  • It was different and I felt strongly it would help me. (Alyne)
  • It sounded like it would be fun. (Janice)
  • This increases mobility and self-awareness. (Judith)

Q: How did you hear about the program?

  • My physical therapist (Alyne)
  • Tsali Manor (Janice)
  • Southwestern Area Agency on Aging (Judith)

Q: How would you describe Tai Chi in your own words?

  • It is an exercise that is real interesting and loosens your muscles in a slow way. (Alyne)
  • Easy, but beneficial for your body and mind. (Janice)

Q: What part of the program do you enjoy the most?

  • Socialization (Judith)

Q: How has participating in this program impacted your daily life?

  • I do some of the exercises. (Alyne)
  • Yes, I do the Tai Chi moves at home. (Janice)
  • Yes, I became more aware of my surroundings. (Judith)

Q: Since this program last several months, what keeps you coming back?

  • It’s enjoyable! (Alyne)
  • I enjoy it. (Janice)

Q: What would you want someone thinking about joining the program to know about Tai Chi?

  • It would be worth a try! (Alyne)
  • It’s easy and enjoyable. (Janice)
  • It increases mobility and calms inner self! (Judith)


Walk With Ease Testimonial

Rose, 70, participated in Walk With Ease in the spring of 2019. She is now registered to become a Walk With Ease leader.

Q: What was the most helpful part of the Walk With Ease program?

The gentleness. There was no pressure. Structure was great too, having the book to read and walking 10 minutes at a time and not all at once. The FITT tool (frequency, intensity, time, type) was helpful to let me know I was doing too much and I learned to only increase one aspect at a time.

Q: Will you continue to use what you learned in this program?

Absolutely. I will still do the stretches. Before taking this class I was in pain all the time. I would overdo it and then be in pain and unable to get up for days. Now I do 10 minutes at a time and I feel so much better. I would like to teach this program in the future because I want people to know it helps. Just follow the program. Do what you can, even if it is only for a minute.

Q: What is one thing you would like others to know about this program if they are considering participating?

I want people to know you don’t have to do it all at once–doing a little at a time makes a huge difference. I didn’t think it would help so much. It seemed too simple–but when I saw the difference with my body and I had no pain, I was convinced. It’s amazing to me.

Q: Anything else you want people to know?

Stay in your comfort zone. I thought I could handle a lot but then I would be in pain.

Don’t overexert yourself, dial it back when you’re starting to get uncomfortable. If even one person reads this and it helps them I will be thrilled.


Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention Testimonial

Jane, 69, participated in one of Healthy Aging NC’s evidence-based programs, a Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention class held Trinity United Methodist Church in Asheville in the fall/winter of 2018-19. We sat down with her to ask some questions about her experience with this program.

Q: What interested you in taking this Tai Chi class?

Tai Chi for Arthritis sounded kind of medical, but I figured if people with arthritis could do it, surely it would be a place to start.  I wanted to stay strong and flexible. I joined because the people looked to be in “my” age group and all seemed to have the same goal. We all want to remain independent and have some fun with a like-minded group while learning.  Not a fight club, but a strength team!  I loved the location since non-intimidating surroundings are important for older folks, and I was surprised at the no cost!

Q: What is a class like? What kinds of activities do you do?

Teachers had every one wear a name tag, and made a special effort to build some social connections, which is always good. We were given detailed guidelines for health limitations that people might have (if you get tired sit down, check with your doctor if you have questions, etc.) The group was encouraged to drink water and go at our own level. The teachers would repeat and repeat the forms so we could “get” the lesson.

Q: How has taking this class impacted your daily life?

The impact on my daily activities is more strength, flexibility, and improving balance.  The more you practice the greater the benefits.  I enjoy practicing and it is becoming an actual “practice” to enhance my day. Good for mind and body. I do it for fun, and it’s energizing. I have more energy to work in the garden!

Q: Since this program last several months, what keeps you coming back?

There is a fluid teaching, and if you have to be out, you can catch up. The class is a great mix of group energy, learning and fun. It is so fun to have a group all in motion doing the very fluid and graceful movements as one unit. There is strength (and stability on your feet) in beauty!

Q: What would you want someone thinking about joining the program to know about Tai Chi?

It’s fun, non-competitive, no one makes fun if you mess up, we all will at some point; laugh and keep moving. The teachers are great. 


Walk With Ease: A trained leader’s perspective

Ellen is a native of the Asheville area and a Lecturer with the Health and Wellness Promotion Department of UNC Asheville. She enjoys teaching, training and encouraging individuals to find a passion for activity and awareness through movement. Ellen was trained as a Walk With Ease leader in June 2018 and since then has led both group-led and self-directed versions of the program.

Q: How would you describe the Walk With Ease program for someone who might be interested?

A: Walk With Ease is a knowledge-based supportive walking program. It is built around community support, so participants can have peer support and qualified evidence-based information. It will help you develop a routine, skills, and better habits and holds you accountable to these things. 

Q: What got you interested in being a leader of Walk With Ease?

A: I have always had a passion for anything related to fitness. I have volunteered for programs in my community, such as the Red Cross, and worked in different fitness-related fields. For me it was an obvious next step when a grant opportunity came up with the NC Center for Health and Wellness, to get more involved in the community and lead Walk With Ease.

Q: How has leading this program changed your perspective on chronic illnesses?

A: People want to be physically active and this program provides the support and tools to be successful.

Q: What is the most important thing for people to know about programs like this one?

A: It’s all about connecting people to knowledge, resources, and support.

Q: Do you have a most memorable moment from leading programs?

A: In one of my Health and Wellness classes we were able to get four students certified in Walk with Ease and we offered a class at Brooks Howell Home for residents and staff. It was a really special moment watching my students teach these skills to help individuals become healthier.

Q: Is there anything you want to add?

A: I just want to encourage people to sign up to be certified and lead courses like Walk With Ease. It’s fun and helps people.

Walk With Ease – Two Testimonials

Bruce is an Adjunct Lecturer in Humanities at the University of North Carolina Asheville. Bruce sat down with us to answer some questions about his experience participating in Walk With Ease in the summer of 2018.

Q: Give a brief overview of what kinds of things you participated in during the Walk With Ease program?

We met in a small group three times a week where we would stretch and then walk.

Q: What was the most helpful part of the program?

Having a group for commitment. If it’s just you then you’re likely to blow it off, but if people are there looking for you and they want to walk too, it’s easier to stay with it.

Q: Have you continued to use what you learned in this program?

I still use the stretches, and I walk all I can every day. My goal is to be in better shape at 75 than I was at 65.

Q: How did the program help your understanding of chronic conditions?

It confirmed what I already knew. I already had an understanding of my conditions and knew you have to move. Moving is key, it really helps the pain. When you move, it keeps your joints open and expels chemical build-up. When you are walking you move all of your joints and keep everything free.

When I started the program I could hardly walk one lap around the arena even using walking sticks. By the end, I was among the faster ones and I could walk extra laps.

Q: What is one thing you would like others to know about this program if they are considering participating?

It was enjoyable. It’s good to get together and have people to talk to. I would’ve ended up in a wheelchair if I didn’t keep moving and being active, the program helped me to keep active.

Q: Anything else you want people to know?

Don’t sit down, it’s not gonna get better if you do, it’s only gonna get worse. Do what you can and push yourself a little bit, within reason. Get to that limit and just go a tad beyond if you can. It’s all about getting through those barriers you give yourself. Don’t tell yourself I’m sick so I can’t do this.


Janice, 60, participated in one of Healthy Aging NC’s evidence-based programs, Walk With Ease, in the summer of 2018. We sat down with her to ask some questions about her experience with this program.

Q: What do programs like Walk With Ease mean to you?

A: These programs are support groups where people can interact with others who have similar problems. They are a way for people to not to feel so isolated, while still being fun and active.

Q: What things did you do during this program?

A: First the group met and everyone got accustomed to each other, then we did some stretches to warm up. Next, we briefly discussed the book and then it was time to walk. It was a small class and everyone who wanted a walking partner paired up with one. It was good to get out of the office and refresh the mind and the body.

Q: What was the most helpful part of the program for you? Do you still use any things you learned?

A: The stretches were the most useful part for me. I still use them in my day to day life. They are good because I can do them in an office environment during breaks from work.

Q: How did this program help your understanding of chronic pain and chronic conditions?

A: It taught me to accept what happened. I can keep pushing forward. You don’t just have to sit down and give up. Our bodies were meant to move. Self-management programs help keep you accountable because you have the chance to interact with other participants, as opposed to self-help programs where you are alone.

Q: What is one thing you would like others to know about this program?

A: It’s there, it’s free. It may help you if you give it a chance. You always leave the doctors office feeling like you have questions, and programs like this can help you with those questions. It is a support system. The doctor doesn’t have time for everything but there are people out there who do have time for you to share your fears. You don’t have to be alone you can build a support network.


Living Healthy with Diabetes (DSMP) Testimonials

        Tom, 71 years old and an Army veteran, found he would constantly sit in his living room, becoming more and more depressed. “I need to get up and move around!” he realized. Tom visited the YWCA and found out about their Diabetes Self Management Program.  As he had just been diagnosed with Diabetes about six months prior, he joined right in and was impressed with how the program gave a lot of love.

        Tom especially likes the positive nature of the Diabetes Self Management Program, and was inspired to do more meditation through the weekly action plans provided by the program. “The class is so dynamic,” Tom shared, “it got me off the couch—I’m interacting with people, I’m learning all the time, and I’ve changed my daily life habits.” 

        Tom now swims on a daily basis, although he cautions that he has learned to listen to his body and now knows his limitations. He has also joined the YWCA’s Foster Grandparent Program and lights up while talking about the kids.


        Roxann, 58 years old, lights up as she receives a compliment about her magenta-colored hair—she shares that she and her grandson colored their hair together and loves being considered the “cool grandma.”

        Roxann is a veteran who was diagnosed with pre-Diabetes about three months ago. New to the Asheville, NC community, she joined the Diabetes Self Management Program (DSMP) offered at the YWCA and immediately found a home with her group and leaders. “We’re not alone,” Roxann confides, “Diabetes is the fastest growing disease, we’re not alone in the struggle to get healthier.”

        Roxann credits DSMP with inspiring her to try new activities like yoga and walking on the treadmill.  She writes out her action plans, which helps her make the commitment to do them, and enjoys positive affirmations.  She believes that education is the key, along with a lot of encouragement, which the DSMP group has given her.

        Roxann now works out at the YWCA 4-5 days a week and feels a part of her community. Being active and having the support of others gave her the encouragement to battle her depression and pain. As Roxann explains: “The pain isn’t gone, but it doesn’t control me anymore.” 


        Renee, 40 years old, was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes in March 2016 and admitted that she struggled to lose weight and get healthier on her own. Luckily, her medical providers and friends were there to help her out.

        Renee’s medical providers recommended she join the Diabetes Self Management Program, and her friends recommended that she join them in taking free Zumba classes at the local church. She took both pieces of advice to heart and she is better for it: “I’m trying to watch how I eat, I’ve finished a Nurse Aid class at the community college, and I now do 5Ks with my buddies.”

        Renee credits the DSMP with showing her how to make action plans for the week and feels that setting small goals is helpful. The action plans encouraged her to start checking her blood sugar on a regular basis and to eat better.  She also enjoys the buddy system to help overcome being scared or nervous about doing an action plan. “We call each other up,” she explains, “We say ‘you’ve got this—you’re already there’!”  

        Renee has thought about becoming a leader in the program to encourage others and show that we can become healthier.  Her most important piece of advice to others? “Just stick with the program—it is a lifestyle change, you may experience setbacks but don’t get disappointed.”


        Martha, 65, is a mentor of the Diabetes Self Management Program (DSMP), and describes herself as “a graduate of the program”. Before becoming a mentor she had been involved in the program for five years.

        After an onslaught of health problems, she discovered an article in the paper advertising the DSMP program and made the decision to attend. She has never looked back!

        Martha stresses how valuable the program is because of the sense of community that is present. She mentions how her struggle was mental, but with the help of those within the program, she now views the vulnerability she experienced as “true strength”.

        The greatest reward for Martha is seeing participants grow within the program as well. “It is so exciting” seeing how dedicated her participants are. Through fostering a welcoming, inclusive environment, Martha has seen great improvement in those within the program!


        Beverly, 65 years old, went through a dark period when she didn’t want to get out of her bed.  Struggling with depression and diabetes, her doctors recommended that she call the YWCA about a membership and joining the Diabetes Self Management Program.

        “I was able to come in and felt good about it,” Beverly explains. She has now been attending the DSMP and feels the information is “really good”, plus she feels it is an open format where you can get feedback on information that may not be understandable at first.

        Beverly is happy to say that she has met friends through the program and has been encouraged that her peers keep coming back week after week. She and others push each other and talk about similar issues and concerns.

        Beverly explains that the biggest benefit is “not getting to a place where I can’t take care of myself.”  She is working on losing weight and was recently cleared by her doctors to start exercising at the pool. “My doctors are really pleased,” she says with a smile.