Suisun City Kroc Tai Chi program helps older adults prevent falls

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12-week course brings balance.

By Vivian Lopez –

Baruch Gould, 75, was in his kitchen and needed to reach something on a high shelf. He climbed on a footstool, but as he reached for the item, one foot began to slip. On the verge of falling, he shifted his weight to the foot that was solidly planted on the stool and was able to keep his balance and avoid tumbling over.

For that, he credits the Tai Chi techniques he learned at The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Suisun City, California.

“I know that without the Tai Chi, my body would have followed the foot that was slipping off the footstool. I would’ve fallen over,” Gould said. “In Tai Chi, one of the exercises we do has to do with…learning to shift weight from one foot to the other. It sounds very simple but it’s a skill you practice, and I was very happy that my body knew to do that.”

The Suisun City Kroc Center offers the Tai Ji Quan (Tai Chi): Moving for Better Balance program to adults ages 61 and older, and teaches them coordinated Tai Chi movements that are proven to reduce falls, while improving overall physical and psychological health. Benefits include lowered blood pressure and enhanced cardiovascular and respiratory performance.

This is the third time Gould has enrolled and participated in the 12-week Tai Chi session at the Kroc Center.

“I’m in very good health. But I figured that at this point in my life, it’s very important to not only have good muscle strength—which I have—but also to have good balance,” Gould said. “I’m very glad it’s being offered. Tai Chi is one of the most important things I do.”

Now in its fourth year, the Tai Chi course is in high demand. Most recently, there were 24 older adults enrolled and the class was full. It’s funded by The Solano Community Foundation and the United Way Health Endowment Fund.

“We definitely see that this class is a need for the community,” said Ronald Kinney, Suisun City Kroc Center sports and fitness manager. “Here at the Kroc Center we have a lot of seniors. We know some of our seniors have experienced falling in the past, so we feel like…this will be a big step to help their balance improve as they age.”

Tai Chi program instructor Linda Guisande teaches participants eight key Tai Chi forms and guides them

through each movement. She said the forms promote confidence, meditation and relaxation, as well as improve balance, flexibility and muscle memory. They also encourage participants to look ahead instead of straight down as they walk—which is the cause of many falls, according to Guisande.

“Every form that we do and every position that they do in Tai Chi gives them the ability to be able to maybe live their lives a little longer,” Guisande said. “I hope they can take it with them for life. I hope they use it every single day. I hope it works for them. I hope it gives them calmness in their spirit.”

John Hardin’s interest in Tai Chi developed after witnessing a large group of older adults practicing Tai Chi as he walked by the Shanghai Zoo while on a business trip in China. He researched it, and he and his wife enrolled once he saw it was offered at the Kroc Center.

“I live on a small little farm and there’s a lot of irregular surfaces. Last year…it seemed like I was falling more. I seem to have regained some of my prior agility [through Tai Chi],” Hardin said. “It’s training your body and mind to react to irregular surfaces and irregular movements. You have more confidence in your ability to react to unknown surfaces and situations.”

Kinney said the program also promotes fellowship, incorporating potlucks for participants to bond.

“Some of them would just stay home and not have anything to do,” Kinney said. “The program is bringing them together…and bringing some light into the community for our seniors.”

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