Healthy Aging Program Initiative expands

By Tina Scruggs – [email protected] – Staff writer
A group of UNC Asheville students worked with a health and wellness faculty member to create the Healthy Aging Program Initiative, which works to promote active aging through wellness programming, screening and research.
Currently, 17 students work for the initiative, and part of their mission is to empower students through leadership training and wellness education, said Susannah Crawford, the programs and special event student leader at the HAPI lab. Currently, they are gearing up for HAPI hour, an event for students in Alumni Hall on Nov. 6.
Crawford, a health and wellness promotions student, joined with three of her peers, Nick Blum, Annie Gary and Angela Erb, to help associate professor Kathie Garbe create the HAPI lab, which is an expansion of the Wellness Activities for Seniors in Asheville program. The WASA program also worked with older adults in the Asheville community, Crawford said.
“A major aspect of the mission is empowering students through leadership training and wellness education. Students gain real world experience conducting research, working with clients and planning programs held on campus and in the greater community,” Crawford said.
According to Crawford, the lab works for the Asheville community to help plan for aging. It is a preventative measure to be proactive about promoting good health, she said.
“We are trying to start at the beginning of aging stages. It’s a preventative care,” Crawford said.
Crawford designed the aesthetics for the lab. She took student photography of trees and blew them up to put on the wall. She, along with other students, will go to San Diego in November for the International Conference for Active Aging.
“We’re presenting there on aesthetics of how to do a personal lab setting, so that’s actually a cool thing,” Crawford said.
Since the HAPI lab’s expansion, the health and wellness department really wants to get their name out there to students and faculty on campus, not just in the Asheville community. According to Crawford, staff, faculty and students are all welcome to attend the event.
“We want UNCA’s family to know who we are because we’re on campus and offer many opportunities. We’re a resource for student research, service learning, internships and possible certifications. Faculty and staff can receive personal training and balance assessments as well as use the HAPI lab as a site for their students’ learning.  It is important that we get the word out there, so that we’re not just in a corner of the Sherrill Center with amazing work going unknown,” Crawford said.
The goal of HAPI hour is to provide activities to promote movement, education and stress relief.  A number of student organizations will be involved. There will also be music, Wii dance, games and therapy dogs. The event will also offer free food from community donors, she said.
In the next few years, it is likely the lab will need to expand, according to Crawford.
“The benefits of working and being involved at the lab are many; however, a majority of the current leaders will be graduating within the next two years. Since last year, the lab’s team has expanded to 17 students working toward the mission of the HAPI lab,” Crawford said.
A large part of the lab is to give students real world experience, and this has led to incredible opportunities for Crawford. She said she learned things in her job that she said she would never think about in a lab setting, such as the legality of a university and marketing.
“I’m only a junior, and I have learned things I would never understand in the classroom environment. Dr. Garbe finds students’ strengths and utilizes them in a way that teaches each of us to create our future in the health field or wherever we choose to go,” Crawford said.
Susannah Crawford contributed to this article.