Hello Fall

Word From Executive Director

Changes, Gratitude and Letting Go

What does the fall season symbolize for you?

When I think of the fall and its relationship to aging, I think about the many changes we experience through our lives and how much gratitude is expressed by our clients and their families when they receive support and feel more confident about resources available to them. This is especially true during transitional times in their lives. Fall also marks both open enrollment for Medicare and Affordable Care Act health insurance. This is a busy time and the decisions made now will influence access to care and socioeconomic security throughout the year.

We have been a part of many stories that allow us to reflect on the art of letting go - accepting change, grieving, adjusting to new experiences, and challenging myths about the aging process and what we think aging "should" look like. No two stories are the same.

Thank you for building a relationship with Council on Aging! We are inspired by the people who boldly embrace change and provide comfort to those who may be struggling. Dignity is of utmost importance to us and we are humble & grateful for the opportunity to serve!

We also think about the fall in relation to physical activity, safety and preparation. Now is a great time when it's not too hot or too cold to exercise outdoors, enjoy the festivities available in our beautiful mountain home, and to gather with gratitude. Some are planting fall gardens, others may enjoy meal planning for Thanksgiving, we may be decorating our homes, enjoying the views from our windows, attending festivals, or taking a leisurely drive.

Now is also a great time to to complete a home safety assessment, boost your immunity, consider your heating and weatherization needs, as well as plan for the winter. It is also getting darker earlier and roads are busy with tourists during leaf season, so driving may become more challenging. With holidays coming up, it may be a time of joy or stress - or both. Taking care of your mental health is important!

Considering your time, your pace, and what's meaningful to you can help you decide which activities are priorities. It is also a wonderful time to reach out to a lonely neighbor or friend, spend time with your loved ones, and/or volunteer your time.

What are you grateful for? We would love to hear from you! info@coabc.org

Need help? Give us a call! 828-277-8288

Yours in living well,

Heather Bauer

Executive Director

Thank you to the WNC Bridge Foundation, AARP Mountain Region, Humana and McGuire Wood & Bissette for their support in our new Aging Services Directory.

Please let us know if you'd like to have hard copies of the directory, which can also be found online!


Agency Announcements

Medicare Open Enrollment:

Your Chance to Optimize your Health Insurance and Save Money

By: Bruce Birdsall, Director of Insurance Services

You already have Medicare. Why should you care about the Medicare Open Enrollment? Well, for starters, this may be your only chance during the year to change certain parts of your Medicare coverage.  From year to year Medicare Part “D” Drug Plans change the list of drugs they cover. They may change the premiums they charge, and they may change the copays you pay at the pharmacy. What does this mean for you? The drug plan you have this year may not be the best drug plan for you next year. The same holds true for drug coverage under a Medicare Advantage Plan.

Are you dissatisfied with your healthcare insurance coverage? Even if you are satisfied with your current coverage, it pays to look at other options that may better meet your needs for the upcoming year. Having the best Medicare insurance plan, that suits your particular healthcare requirements, can save you large amounts of money and bring you peace of mind! Who doesn’t want that?  

The Medicare Open Enrollment, or Annual Election, runs from October 15th through December 7th. This is the time of the year when you can:

Any change you make during this period is effective on January 1, 2022.

It may first seem like evaluating your Medicare coverage options is overwhelming, but once you understand your choices it will be easier for you to decide how you want to get your Medicare coverage.

Do not let the COVID pandemic stop you from evaluating your Medicare coverage during Open Enrollment! The Council on Aging is offering Medicare consultations remotely, by phone. If you would like help in choosing the best Medicare insurance coverage for you, contact us at 828-277-8288 for an appointment with a Medicare counselor. 

Farewell to Billie


Please join us as we say farewell and congratulations to Billie Breeden, who is "rewiring" after 7 years with COA. Most recently, Billie served as the Director of Congregate Nutrition.

Thousands of clients and more than 100,000 meals later, we look forward to seeing you in community.

Enjoy baking, dancing, traveling, enhancing your skills and exploring your art! 


Welcome to the Family!


We are excited to welcome baby Aviana to the Council on Aging family. Born on September 18th to Arlyn and Alex Villafuerte, both Avi and mom are healthy and doing great! Here she is waving "hello!" to all of us at COA.


Get to Know Our New Staff

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April Tinker -

In-Home Aide

Care Manager

I recently began working with Council on Aging in September of 2021. I have a passion to assist the senior community and find fulfillment in being able to help anyone in need whether the need is large or small.

As the incoming In-Home Aide Care Manager, I am excited about the opportunity to create a relationship with her clients and to support them to find a program in the community that supports their needs holistically. It is a priority that clients are served not only physically but emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and financially. The responsibility of the In-Home Aide Care Manager is to manage each case through home visits or calls and to assist to provide economic, emotional, social, environmental support.

When not at work, I enjoy exploring Asheville restaurants, shopping, or just hanging out with family.

Emily Carleo -

Senior Dining

Program Manager

I started my journey of working with older adults at age 12 volunteering with the Adult Life Center in Conover, NC, and fell in love. I knew from that moment I wanted to make a difference in the lives of older adults. Working with the Council on Aging’s senior dining program does just that. Offering nutritious meals, activities, and solicitation with people in the same age group feeds people's bodies, minds, and spirits.

I grew up in Hickory, NC then attended UNC Charlotte for my undergraduate and graduate degrees. I graduated with a Master’s in Gerontology. For the last 20 years, I lived in Charlotte and the surrounding area. Previously I ran a similar program in Iredell County.

In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my cats, listening to podcasts and reading. I am really looking forward to exploring my new home!


Tonya Ernst -

ACA Navigator

I grew up in northeast Tennessee and am excited to now be located on the eastern side of the mountains. I have worked a myriad of jobs always with a focus on serving others. I’m hopeful my healthcare experience will allow me to further navigate the intricacies of the Affordable Care Act with those we serve at COA. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, travel (in pre-Covid times), and various textile crafts. I’m an MSW candidate and hope to always work to provide accessible and affordable healthcare to all. 

Corporate Sponsors Highlights

Givens Estates

Givens Estates is a progressive, non-profit Life Plan Community (also known as a continuing care retirement community or CCRC) in Asheville, North Carolina. Our community empowers older adults to discover purpose, pursue passions, and realize possibilities.

Givens Estates' mission is to improve lives through communities, services, and outreach. Volunteering is a significant part of our purpose-led culture, and we help residents connect with various on and off-campus opportunities through our Volunteer Partner Agency Board. These local partnerships include Mission Hospital, Habitat for Humanity, MANNA Foodbank, the North Carolina Arboretum, and the Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry. Whether residents fundraise for a charitable cause or donate their time or talent to make a difference, we support their efforts to be creators who take action.

Givens Estates has a rich four-decade history of service thanks to the generosity of our founders, Dr. Maurice and Marion Givens. The Givens were philanthropists, and Marion recognized the need for a home in the greater Asheville region where older adults could live with dignity and receive quality care. After Marion's passing, her trustees worked with the Western North Carolina Methodist Church to establish Givens Estates.

What started as 84 one-and two-bedroom apartments, partly funded through Housing Urban Development (HUD) in 1979, has grown to 490 homes in nine distinct neighborhoods on 215 acres with breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge. Residents choose from various residence options, ranging from apartments to single-family homes, and enjoy access to various activities, services, and amenities, all designed to improve health and well-being. Some residents prefer indoor activities like workouts in our fitness center, yoga or aerobics classes in our studio, or swimming in our community pool; others like to hike the walking trails of our 215 acres and take in the breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge. You can find a complete overview of everything our community offers to provide authentic, vibrant independent living at www.givensestates.org. With wonderful dining experiences, lifelong learning opportunities, and abundant resources, we offer enriching independent living with the peace of mind that comes from knowing high-quality health care is available when needed.

Marion Givens' original vision continues to inspire our mission, and we are honored to partner with the Council on Aging to support older adults by providing opportunities to age successfully.

Volunteer Shoutouts


Mary James

This edition's Medicare Volunteer Superstar is Mary James! Mary has been volunteering for Council on Aging as a Medicare counselor for two years.

Mary volunteers for COA as a Medicare volunteer becasue, "I decided to become a volunteer Medicare counselor when I myself was approaching age 65 and felt overwhelmed by the complexity of Medicare. I decided that if I could really learn this arena, I’d love to be able to make it clearer for others coming onto Medicare (or already on Medicare and still confused). I’ve loved the learning curve (which continues), but I also continue to do this because every person, every situation, is unique. I enjoy the challenge of finding the most effective ways to communicate with clients and reassure them."

Mary is an outstanding volunteer. She goes above and beyond to ensure that she is providing the best counseling service to the clients. We always receive great feedback from the clients that she counsels. We are very fortunate to have such a wonderful and knowledgeable counselor like Mary to count on.

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Judy Rudolph

Our Fall COA Volunteer Superstar is Judy Rudolph! Judy began serving in 2018 and has filled several roles for us since then. Here's what she has to say:

"Volunteering for COA started off as a way to get up from my recliner and out of the house. I believe it was 2018, and I wanted to do the Call-a-Ride program, but Arlyn asked if I would be willing to deliver groceries to shut-in seniors. That 'yes' was the best decision, giving me a chance to meet 'my people' and be part of the mission of COA. During the pandemic shutdown I could continue volunteering because I could keep distance and still help. Now, I also deliver hot meals in my community, getting to meet more lovely seniors and the wonderful folks at the Weaverville dining site. 

"The staff at COA are just the best, cheerful and helpful and professional. I'm always amazed at how they help seniors with the many issues that arise at this stage in life. It's a pleasure being a part of an organization that works to be part of the solution. Thanks COA for all you do!"

What Clients Are Saying


"Last year, my Medicare counselor helped me save $1,000 on my prescription plan. He was so professional and truly cared about helping me. I just cannot thank you enough for this service."

-- 2021 SHIIP program participant

Upcoming Events

Free "Introduction to Medicare" Webinar

The Council on Aging of Buncombe County is presenting virtual classes on Medicare!

We explain how Medicare works,

the enrollment process, how to avoid penalties,

and ways to save money.


Pre-registration is required and you must provide an email address. A Zoom link will be sent to you prior to the class with further instructions.

"My wife and I were very pleased with the presentation and content from Bruce Birdsall. It was very interesting and informative about the various choices for supplements. Thanks for providing this valuable service to our community!"

- Medicare Webinar Participant

Upcoming Classes:

October 29, 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM, OLLI/Reuter Center, One University Heights, Asheville

November 16, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM, Via Zoom

December 2, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM, Via Zoom

Register Today!

Not All Heroes Wear CAPES

Caring for Aging People Education & Support

Whether you are a long-distance caregiver, a working family caregiver, living with or nearby your loved one, we recognize that you need support, education, and information that can help you navigate this journey.

Whether by Zoom or in person, please join us!

3rd Tuesday of every month In Person or Via Zoom.

November 16

In Person – 1:30-3:00 PM

First Baptist Church Asheville

*Masks Required

5 Oak St. Downtown Asheville

Room CB – 221


Via Zoom – 5:00-6:30 PM


Start the conversation by contacting Jennie Pressley.

(828) 277-8288, ext. 1308

Thank You, Sponsors

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