Low-impact Tai Chi having a big impact on seniors in Albany

·3 min read

Sep. 4—ALBANY — The latest research indicates that just a few minutes of movement, or even just standing, each day can make a big difference in health and emotional well-being. With the sound of soothing music and gentle, slow movements performed while sitting and standing, Tai Chi would seem to fit that bill.

It's certainly making a difference for senior citizens like Brenda Allen, who has been attending a weekly class at Sowega Council on Aging in Albany for about three months. A half-dozen or so women took part in a session this week.

"It seems to help, as far as pain," Allen said. "I used to wake up and have this pain. I've been noticing, since I've been doing it, it's decreased the pain. I don't have that pain in the morning. It seems to be helping."

The COA has been offering the class Tai Chi for Arthritis and Falls Prevention for about six months, both in-person and virtually in the 14 counties it serves.

Participants aren't required to have been diagnosed with arthritis, which is the case with Allen, 71.

"I like it," she said. "That's why I get up every Wednesday and go there. I think it's comforting because she plays that soothing music. It relaxes you. It makes you feel overall well."

At home, Allen said she does stretching exercises each morning, sometimes works out and tries to walk about 30 minutes each day. But the experience of interacting with other participants is another benefit of the Tai Chi class.

"I've met some people, so I'm interacting socially," Allen said. "Getting out of the house is good. The older you get, the more you tend to stay at home. Now I'm going out somewhere almost every day. They're starting a strength class on Tuesdays, so I'm going to do that, too.

"I would encourage people to try it. Try it at least two or three times and they will see the difference."

Tai Chi checks off a number of boxes on the list of things that help clients live healthier, better lives as they age, COA Executive Director Izzie Sadler said.

"One of the components of what we do is ensuring seniors are living well, living safe and living well," Sadler said. "We want people to age gracefully. Just helping with motion, they say it helps improve movement, strength and it helps improve the immune system."

All of the instructors are certified, and the program is approved as an evidence-based program through the Center for Healthy Aging. The program lasts 16 weeks, and participants can continue to come for additional sessions.

"It's not only for people with arthritis," Sadler said. "It can also prevent these conditions. It's really no-impact. It's really great for people who are at greater risk of falling. This is a very gentle (exercise) that allows people to move in a safe way."

The participants also get the opportunity to interact with others.

"Socialization is a very important part of wellness," Sadler said.