According to an annual United States of Aging Poll, older adults and professionals who offer them services have divergent perceptions of what older adults need. The professionals seemed to be more concerned that older adults could not afford health care costs (43% versus 3%). They were also concerned that older adults are susceptible to financial scams, need access to affordable housing and will suffer from memory loss. In contrast, older adults were actually more concerned about:
- “Maintaining their physical health;”
- “Memory loss;”
- “Maintaining mental health.”
If you’ve kept up with this blog and recent research findings, then you’ll notice something familiar about this list of concerns – they are all addressed by regular Tai Chi.
Maintaining Physical Health:
Disability is the number one cause of loss of independence among older adults. Disability among older adults is most often caused by falls. Falls are more common among older adults due to loss of muscle strength, stamina and flexibility. Additionally, as older adults lose the physical aspects of their muscles, they become afraid of falling. The fear of falling, leads to less movement, which leads to less muscle integrity, which leads to more falling! It’s a vicious cycle. Tai Chi prevents falls by working on the physical, mental and emotional aspects that lead to falls among older adults. Strong and mobile older adults are also less likely to suffer from weight-related conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, heart problems and diabetes.
The regular practice of Tai Chi not only prevents the deterioration of your mind; it also improves its function. Studies have shown that Tai Chi reduces/prevents the shrinkage of the brain which is associated with advancing age. In a study, those who practiced Tai Chi performed better on tests on memory, thinking and markers for dementia than those who participated in walking, for example.
Maintaining Mental Health
Memory loss and mental health are connected. As mentioned above, Tai Chi helps with maintaining your memory. However, mental health goes beyond remembering things and keeping a sharp mind. Over 2 million people over the age of 65 suffer from depression and “the suicide rate among white men over 85 is the highest in the country — six times the national rate.” Studies have shown that Tai Chi helps alleviate depression in older adults. Tai Chi relieves stress, and keeps adults mobile, which prevents depression caused by isolation. Additionally, it provides a social activity where older adults can meet new people or foster existing relationships.
So, if you work with older adults, you may want to consider how Tai Chi may meet their needs, which they self-identified in the United States of Aging poll. If you are an older adult who shares the concerns identified by the poll, sign up for a Tai Chi class today. After all, worrying and polling won’t get us anywhere.
National Council on Aging, July 2015 – Older Adults and Professionals do not Think Alike.