Our team of experts is there to help with mobility, give advice and most of all – make participants feel at home

John Coleman finds that although the team comes from very different backgrounds, they are all linked by one desire to help older people and those caring for them...


David Clyant Head of Mobility – United Kingdom 

David has overall responsibility for the mobility side of Balanced Lives. He runs our programmes in Wales and the West Midlands. David lives near Abergavenny, Monmouthshire. His teaching spans a wide area including Hereford, Barry and Swansea.

The trademarked Balanced Lives Programme is recommended by GPs and 100% evidenced based. It is an exciting innovative system combining many different elements. “Part of the role of the programme is advising people, not just in physical movement but in their overall approach to life,” says David. “We often discuss different foods to eat or avoid depending on the individual’s medical condition. The physical exercises are tailored to the health requirements of each person; something I find personally rewarding especially as health problems are either eased or in some cases disappear completely.”

Part of the role of the programme is advising people, not just in physical movement but in their overall approach to life.

The Balanced Lives programme contains many different elements, including Tai Chi, as David explains. “Tai Chi is an adaptable system of movement working on postural, physiological and psychological processes of the body improving co-ordination and body movement whilst using 96% of all muscle groups of the body.”

David is an authorised Senior Instructor within the Taoist Arts Organisation. The TAO was formed in 1995 and is a senior member of the Sports Council.

Looking after people is a full time job for David. “I don’t really have much time for hobbies, in fact, my work is my hobby. Keeping an eye on my six year old takes up the rest of my time.”

David does have other interests, such as nutrition, which he incorporates into advice given during the Balanced Lives Programme. “One of the things that amazes me in general is people's attitude to food. In traditional Chinese Medicine, food therapy has been up there alongside acupuncture and herbal therapy, yet in the West there is so much conflicting dietary advice. Good health gains can easily be made, just by changing a few items of food. “

David feels there is a marked shift in people’s mealtime habits, but it’s not for the better. “The biggest change I observe is that people no longer stick to the advice: ‘Breakfast like a king, midday meal like an emperor and evening meal like a pauper.' If people did, they would enjoy better energy levels and usually with less pain.” 




David Lipka Mobility Lead – Care Homes

David currently runs a very successful Balanced Lives Programme at a Residential Home in Sheffield. Evaluations after an initial 12-week programme indicated clear benefits for participants, including a general sense of well-being and more positive attitude. “I was extremely pleased,” beams David, “as the evaluation also found that people had achieved better balance, along with greater independence by being able to stand and sit independently. In fact, overall they had much greater flexibility.”

David also reports that feedback from an evaluation report by our initial funders Comic Relief was very positive and the programme continues to run successfully.

It’s important we recognise the needs of each person to tailor the help and support we provide for the individual.

David’s experience can take him into all sorts of areas working with older people. “I’ve been commissioned to teach Tai Chi as part of a falls prevention strategy and also run courses for people with dementia along with their carers.”

David has been teaching professionally for the last 17 years. An advanced instructor with the Tai Chi Union for Great Britain, he is also trained in traditional Chinese Medicine and Shiatsu.

As well as offering classes for the general public and running his own school, David has developed a widely acknowledged expertise in working with people with specific health concerns.

David understands the differing needs of participants and knows how to put people at ease. “I’ve spent a lot of time working with older people with all sorts of issues such as loneliness, isolation or even severe mental health problems. It’s important to recognise the needs of each person and tailor the help and support we provide to the individual.”

“I enjoy working for Action for Elders and running the Balanced Lives Programme,” says David. “I very much support the aims and ethos of the organisation. I see it as making a significant and much needed positive intervention in older people's lives.”




Betty Sutherland Mobility Lead – York & the North

Betty currently runs the Balanced Lives Programme in York. The programme began at the end of last year with a taster course and has now become a popular, regular weekly event.

Betty is a Tai Chi practitioner with over 20 years experience. Born in Balloch, Scotland “on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond,” as she puts it. Betty is now based in North Yorkshire.

I love to achieve startling results with people of all abilities and health issues… 

Betty has a unique mix of empathy and understanding of people; she originally took up teaching for personal reasons. “I initially started doing Tai Chi for my own health and to help me manage stress. I loved the interaction with people so I soon became a teacher. I’m local authority approved and qualified to teach in the Education sector.”

Betty teaches all ages and is a leading authority in teaching Tai Chi to children in schools. She delivers Adult Education courses for local authorities, for the NHS and in the private sector. "I also train teachers,” she says.

Betty finds it particularly rewarding working with older people. “The Balanced Lives Programme is bringing people together, not just for exercise but for making friends too. It’s also a good support group in the local community of Acomb, York. We enjoy sharing life experiences.” 

Away from her work Betty’s main interest is horse riding. She is married to Dougie and this year they celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary.

“I love to achieve startling results with people of all abilities and health issues. The development I have been fortunate to achieve has grown from simple inquisitiveness to daily practice, bringing with it a sense of enjoyment and accomplishment,” she enthuses.

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Mike Hart Mobility Lead – Swansea   

Mike is the newest member of our team, but has a wealth of experience having spent nearly 40 years teaching and training. He runs a weekly Balanced Lives programme at the ExtraCare scheme, Hazel Court in the Sketty area of Swansea. “I specialise in adapting the Chinese health arts for the older adult,” says Mike. “Currently, I coach over 100 people in the local community helping with mobility, flexibility and related conditions.” 

Having dealt with a number of injuries and problems myself over the decades I can understand  the pain and discomfort that people feel.

Mike has a unique awareness and empathy for those with mobility problems, something that comes from personal experience: “Having dealt with a number of injuries and problems myself over the decades I can understand the pain and discomfort that people feel.”

In his spare time, Mike likes to read fiction. British novelist Lee Child’s action-packed Jack Reacher novels are a favourite. Tom Cruise portrayed the hero in the Jack Reacher movies, but Mike doesn’t see himself as full-time action hero, he’s more of a family man. “I have two grown up girls and four grandchildren to keep me busy in any free time,” he says. 

“I read a lot of health articles and like to keep up with the latest developments," says Mike. "I have learnt from experience that it is never too late to give up thinking about health and wellbeing in later life.”