Dick Van Dyke is the reason Eddie Di Muzzio can now lift one leg off the floor. Just a year ago, he couldn’t imagine balancing himself without holding onto a chair.

Eddie and his wife, Pauline, were watching a television program hosted by the actor/comedian Dick Van Dyke. Van Dyke, who is 93 years old and an advocate of a healthy aging lifestyle, was promoting the Tai Cheng program, a form of Tai Chi, particularly geared toward older adults.  He credited Tai Chi for improving his mobility. Van Dyke’s program convinced Eddie and Pauline to give Tai Chi a try to help improve their coordination and balance, which had been a problem for them for years.

As Stoneham residents, the couple signed up for a Dr. Paul Lam’s Tai Chi for Health course at the Stoneham Senior Center. The course is offered through Mystic Valley Elder Services as part of its Healthy Aging Program. It consists of a free eight-week, one-hour class on learning the basics of Tai Chi. The couple was hooked and have been taking classes for more than a year.

Prior to taking the Tai Chi classes, Eddie could hardly stand. He had pain and stiffness throughout his legs and suffered from light neuropathy in his foot. And when he did stand, his balance was off. Pauline shared the same problem, her coordination while walking was poor. Eddie, at nearly 88 years old, and Pauline, being 84, just accepted it as a burden of getting old.

Eddie and Pauline are currently taking their third Healthy Aging Program Tai Chi course, this one at the Milano Family Senior Center in Melrose. Because the Tai Chi courses are so popular, the class was filled at the Stoneham location. But that did not stop them from taking classes.

“We really enjoy the class and the company,” says Eddie. “Many of the same people take the classes so we get to know one another. There is only one other male in the class, so we hang out together.”

Eddie admits that it took him a while to learn the steps and get acclimated to the moves. But as he learned when he began to play the piano back in the day, it is all about practice.  He is beginning to master the movements and can feel the difference in his legs with more flexibility and less pain. Pauline can see a major difference in her walking; her coordination is much better than it was a year ago.

Another reason the couple continues to take the course is because of their class leader, Susan Becker. “Susan is a people person,” says Pauline. “She is very personable and a great leader. She explains the process making sure all of us understand it and will work with you until you have the movement down.”

Both agree that having Susan lead their class really adds to the sessions. “She’s an excellent teacher,” says Eddie. “She goes over the actions until we have retained what we have learned.”

Coincidentally, Susan recently won the Outstanding Leader Award. The Outstanding Leader Award recognizes the dedication and passion of the leaders who positively impact the lives of thousands of adults every year through evidence-based programming.

Mystic Valley Elder Services is seeking Healthy Aging Program Group leader volunteers like Susan to help advance the mission of its Healthy Aging Program by assisting people with chronic medical conditions to manage their medical problems and disabilities by leading the workshops that support, educate, and nurture a greater control over their lives. Group leaders receive a $300 stipend for facilitating a Healthy Aging Program workshop(s) and will also receive training.

For more information on Mystic Valley Elder Services’ Healthy Aging Programs or how to become a group leader, please contact   Donna Covelle, Healthy Aging Program Coordinator, at (781) 388-4867 or [email protected]

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