On June 11, St. Vincent's held a kick-off session to bring Tai Chi and Qigong to the residents of the home. This was a collaborative effort with the Chautauqua County Office of the Aging ,a partner in Step up to Stop Falls Coalition sponsored by the Health Foundation of Western and Central NY.
OFA will be working with St. Vincent's to provide support and technical assistance for the development and implementation of the program.
Tai Chi is referred to as an internal martial art that originated in ancient China.
It is a series of low-impact, weight-bearing movements that people of any age group are able to learn. Qigong are coordinated breathing exercises that are practiced with the slow physical movements for exercise, healing and meditation.
Research studies have shown that participation in Tai Chi and Qigong have beneficial effects on the body and the mind and can lead to improvements in improved strength and flexibility, coordination and conditioning; reduced pain and stiffness resulting in better balance and reduced risk of falls; better sleep patterns; greater calmness and improved sense of well being. There are also many studies showing that regular practice of Tai Chi prevents falls, a major health concern for older adults.
As part of their outreach for wellness, Judith Blitz, Certified Health Educator from the Office for the Aging, met with St. Vincent's Activity and Resident Care Staff to plan the program and perform baseline testing of all the participants. The testing will allow an individual's progress in strength and balance to be measured. Eighteen residents completed the testing and have started participating in the program one to three days per week with staff facilitation. Blitz will return every six to eight weeks to retest and document residents' progress.
Participants can do some or all parts of the program and still derive positive health benefits. Some choose only to do seated motions and breathing, which has a positive effect on their flexibility and endurance. Those who can do the standing motions will improve their balance and help prevent falls. Either way, there is a benefit for everyone who participates.
"It's a lot of fun, and it's not hard to do. And, I like the music and breathing exercises - they make it very interesting," said Henry Bielat, a resident at St. Vincent's.
If you would like to start a Tai Chi program or find out about other health and wellness programs offered through the Office for the Aging and community partners, contact the NY Connects helpline at 753-4471 or 363-4471.