Contact us

Dawn Simonson

Executive Director, Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging

Feb 052014
 February 5, 2014  Posted by  Aging in Place, Health
Bounleuth Gowing

Bounleuth Gowing,
Tai Chi leader

At the front of the small auditorium in north Minneapolis, Bounleuth Gowing flashes a brilliant smile as she coaxes participants to stretch, shift, align and move. Traditional Laotian music plays in the background as the 20 or so participants respond with graceful, synchronized movements using traditional Tai Chi forms.

The older adults are participating in Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance, an evidence-based program introduced to the Lao Advancement Organization of America and other metro organizations serving older adults by David Fink, program developer at the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging (MAAA). The goal of the program is to reduce falls by improving balance, strength, flexibility and physical performance in older adults. “We wanted to find an evidence-based fall prevention program that could be easily implemented by bilingual leaders for non-English speaking older adults, and Tai Chi: Moving For Better Balance has been excellent in meeting that need.”

Fuzhong Li, PhD, at the Oregon Research Institute, developed the community-based Tai Chi program and has offered three 2-day training sessions since 2012 sponsored by MAAA for prospective leaders in the metro area. Bounleuth and her co-leader, Danai Phongthani, and 44 other leaders have attended the training.

Boualay Inthavong

Boualay Inthavong,

“I was leading various type of classes before we started the Tai Chi program but it was hard to keep people involved or to see progress. The Tai Chi program provides a structure that people like and is easy for me to lead,” says Bounleuth. “We made some modifications to the program to fit our group and to keep it fresh and fun but we stick with the fundamentals of the program. Tai Chi is making a difference for our elders.”

Boualay Inthavong and Sy Inthachinda, participants in the Tai Chi program, came to America from Laos in the late 1970s and early 1980s as refugees after a Communist government came to power in Laos in 1975.

Sy Inthachinda

Sy Inthachinda,

Boualay and Sy praise the Tai Chi class. “It makes me feel better. I have learned to move in different ways and I enjoy socializing with others before and after the class,” says Boualay. According to Sy, “Before I started the class, I needed a cane to walk. Now I walk without a cane . . . and I walk fast!”

“Our elders like the class very much and don’t want to miss it,” says Bounleuth. “Many of them schedule their appointments around the class. If someone needs to miss a class, I usually get a call saying, ‘don’t take me off the list, I will be back for the next class.’”

You might think that the older adults in northwest Minnesota, predominately of Scandinavian and German descent, would be less likely to take to Tai Chi. Karen Lenius, Senior Programs/RSVP director for the Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership is quick to say that’s not true.

Her organization partners with the Land of the Dancing Sky Area Agency on Aging and Central Minnesota Council on Aging to offer Tai Chi in 13 sites in five counties across northwestern Minnesota. Dr. Li has offered two training sessions in the area, training 30 volunteers to lead the Tai Chi sessions. Karen estimates that 196 older adults participate regularly in the Tai Chi programs. “The program is so good for strengthening the core of the body,” says Karen. “After Tai Chi, people have a much better ability to move without over extending. They have improved balance and much less chance of falling.”

Participants in northwestern Minnesota

Participants in northwestern Minnesota

In addition to the programs mentioned above, the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging supports classes in English, Laotian, Somali, Oromo, Korean, Vietnamese, Hmong, Khmer and Spanish at various locations in the metropolitan area and plans to expand the program to additional English and non-English speaking groups in 2014. The Central Minnesota Council on Aging offers Tai Chi in partnership with two Saint Cloud partners: Catholic Charities and the Whitney Community Center.

Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance is funded with Title IIID Health Promotion federal funds as part of the Older Americans Act under contract with individual Minnesota Area Agencies on Aging.

For additional information, contact David Fink at or 651-917.4633 or Karen Lenius at or 218-847-1385.

Nov 142013
 November 14, 2013  Posted by  Long-term Care

(Formerly known as the Seniors Agenda for Independent Living—SAIL)

Older adult with Metro ElderCareThe Metro ElderCare Development Partnership is a collaborative initiative of the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging; MN HomeCare; Aging Services Minnesota; Care Providers; and the Counties of Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, and Ramsey. The partnership’s mission is to: “reshape the long term care system in the Metro area, making more community options available and accessible to older adults.”

The Metro Area EDP works towards its mission by bringing together consumers and providers of senior services interested in participating individually or working in teams on identified strategies. Current strategies are working towards:

  • Fostering relationships with health plans and primary care providers as they prepare to implement care transition models for their older adult populations.
  • Identifying resource development opportunities within communities that are engaged in preparing for their aging population.
  • Expanding evidenced-based health promotion programs into underserved areas within the 7-county metro region.
  • Working with providers of sensing, telehealth, and other technologies to expand the array, availability and utilization of these services into an older adults home.
  • Assisting providers of older adult services to become sustainable through consultation, technical assistance, and training.

Similar partnerships have been established in every region of the state. View ElderCare Development contacts.

Jul 232012
 July 23, 2012  Posted by  Age-Friendly Communities

Community services foster high quality of lifeThe Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging is launching a Lifetime Communities Learning and Action Collaborative funded in part through a grant from the Greater Twin Cities United Way. The purpose is to support city officials and their residents as they work to make their communities good places to grow up and grow old. The collaborative will feature an exchange of best practices, success stories, and strategies to deal with pitfalls and obstacles. As the group identifies its learning needs, the Area Agency will help to engage leaders with appropriate expertise for presentations and Q&A sessions.

Lifetime communities will become increasingly important as the population of older people grows. Communities that work for people of all ages and abilities are attentive to physical, social, and service supports that address a range of needs. Communities prepare as lifetime communities with:

  • Assessing current assets and planning for the future
  • Transforming physical infrastructures, including housing, mobility options and accessible public space
  • Fostering social connections and nurturing a sense of responsibility across generations
  • Expanding products and services that support residents to stay independent and engaged as they age

For information about the Lifetime Communities Learning and Action Collaborative, contact  email