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Seniors and Tai Chi: April 5, 2012

The practice of tai chi puts balance into 54-year-old June Getford’s life.

“I’ve been fascinated by tai chi. The movement, the meditation, the sense of balance and memory exercise.”

She uses it as a release both mentally and physically.

“If I am having hip pain it allows me to adjust my walking or standing positions, sitting positions into a more evenly weighted stance.”

Science is now seeing the value in exercises like tai chi, for the elderly in particular. Study after study finds it may improve health conditions ranging from fibromyalgia to Parkinson’s disease to Alzheimer’s.

“Exercise is probably the most effective way to improve cognitive ability. In order to do that the exercise should include movement, complexity and memory, which tai chi does,” says Dr. Marc Rowe, a tai chi instructor at Lee Memorial Health System.

Lee Memorial Health System offers tai chi classes for seniors. It helps keep them on their feet and moving in the right direction.

“About 50% of people over 80 have lost enough fitness that they can’t do the normal chores to make themselves independent around the house. So we want to develop a package, a comprehensive program with tai chi as its centerpiece to train seniors to be more functional and independent,” says Dr. Rowe.

It doesn’t take long for require much space, just a series of thoughtful movements that give June and others peace of mind.

“I’m hoping it will keep me more stable as I age, aging graceful in that sense,” sys Getford.

“I’m teaching them to speak a little dance they can take home and for 15 minutes a day they can quietly go out in their patio or their yard and maybe with a friend, do their tai chi,” says Dr. Rowe.