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New project connects older adults with local food and improved fitness

BOONE – A new program aimed at improving Watauga County seniors’ access to fresh local foods and increasing their physical activity begins Sept. 28 with a 10 a.m. walkathon in the parking lot of the Lois E. Harrill Senior Center on Poplar Grove Connector at the Watauga County Human Services building. The public is invited to this kick-off event; snacks and water will be provided.

Called EMMA (Eat better, Move more and Age well), the program is sponsored by Appalachian State University’s Be Active-Appalachian Partnership in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Institute for Health and Human Services, College of Health Sciences, and various community partners.  EMMA has already proven successful in benefitting older adults in Buncombe and Transylvania counties.

EMMA’s two major health-related goals are to improve access to and increased consumption of fresh local foods and increased physical activity and overall mental well-being in older adults through various types of exercise programs and alternative therapy programs.

Studies have shown that diets high in fruits and vegetables and physical activity are known to improve health in older adults, who often suffer from arthritis, high blood pressure, difficulty walking, diabetes and depression. Increased physical activity can boost mobility and prevent falls.

The program will incorporate raised-bed gardening at the Senior Center, nutrition education, field trips to farms, farmers markets and grocery stores, and other activities.

Also as part of the program, the Senior Center will offer Zumba® Gold exercise classes each Wednesday from 4 to 5 p.m. Cost is $3 per person. Additional exercise classes are also offered at the senior center.  Call Tabitha Thomas at the senior center at 265-8090 for details.

The EMMA program was initially created with funding from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation Healthy Active Communities Program. The community partners who make EMMA possible in Watauga County are the Watauga County Project on Aging, N.C. Cooperative Extension, Earth Fare, and students and faculty in Appalachian’s Department of Nutrition and Health Care Management in the College of Health Sciences.

To participate in EMMA, contact Carol Cook at the Be Active-Appalachian Partnership at 262-7155 or Tabitha Thomas at the Watauga County Project on Aging at 265-8090.