One of the best parts of Fung Song’s week is when she gets to participate in a tai chi class.
Fung is among several Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre residents who are able to easily practise the ancient martial art in their wheelchairs thanks to the accessible class that uses special props like decorative fans.
Guided by the beat of uplifting music, Fung, 84, finds tai chi offers her many benefits.
“I have a lot of interest in it and I get a lot of joy from it,” says Fung. “When I do practise, I feel more awake and happy.”
Along with its ability to elevate mood, research shows that tai chi can help keep our minds sharp as we age and even improve thinking, problem solving and memory. And it’s an activity that is accessible to people of all ages and fitness and mobility levels.
“The benefit of tai chi in particular is you can do it at any age. Also, some studies support its impact on cognitive function, especially in areas of decision making and executive function,” says Dr. Marjan Abbasi, medical site lead for geriatrics at the Misericordia Community Hospital. “Some people call tai chi medication in motion or meditation in motion.”
Tai chi instructor Ken Chui has been teaching for almost 25 years and leads the classes for Edmonton General residents on Friday mornings. Since tai chi doesn’t require equipment or a lot of space, almost anyone can do it, he says.
“Tai chi is good for the body and the spirit,” he says. “I teach in a way that you can do tai chi anytime and anywhere, and it improves motor co-ordination, which I think gives people more confidence.”
Residents at the Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre enjoy tai chi lessons, and its positive effect on residents’ minds and bodies is apparent after class, says Pollyanna Kwong, recreational therapist.
“They really enjoy it, not only for socialization, but because they find
they have a better appetite and better co-ordination,” says Pollyanna.
Even if you’re not interested in tai chi, carving 15 to 20 minutes out of your day to exercise can improve your balance, memory and co-ordination, says Marjan.
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