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Seniors work on their Tai Chi skills at Seabridge. (Photo by Chris Frost)
Thursday, March 7, 2019

By Chris Frost

chris@tricountysentry.com

 

Oxnard—The Seabridge Community was the place to be, March 4, as a group of RSVP Volunteers led seniors through a great Tai chi exercise, and a labor of love for the organization, which sponsors the event.

Tai chi is a Chinese martial art used for self-defense, but also has a health benefit for seniors or anyone who wants to achieve improved balance.

The RSVP (Retired & Senior Volunteer Program) helps seniors stay active and involved by matching them with community non-profits that need their skills.

The class featured 20 attendees who went through a precision class, shared a few laughs and bonded as a group working toward a common goal.

RSVP Group Instructor Sergio Cifuentes led the group and said seniors have better balance because of Tai Chi.

He got involved after attending a symposium about equilibrium because he had trouble with his balance.

“I started researching, and all the doctors told me the best thing to do was take Tai Chi classes,” he said. “After that, I took Tai chi and got involved with a group in Ventura.”

RSVP Coordinator Marisue Eastlake heard about his efforts and asked him to instruct a class.

“They trained me for that, and then I got involved with this group here (Seabreeze),” Cifuentes said.

The class is not hard, he said, but learning something new can be a challenge.

“If you go one day at a time, it becomes simple,” he said. “In Tai chi, we don’t  have a rank like in karate, we’re all the same, beginners, intermediate or advanced, so there is no perfect Tai Chi.”

He said the group participates for medical, not competitive, reasons and learns to relax, concentrate and work on their memory and mobility.

“People get old when three factors in the way,” he said. “One is your memory, and you need to remember the name of your forms, and you also need to know mobility. If you have mobility, you have everything else even if you are in a wheelchair.”

He got started because Tai Chi is fun, and never believed he would be an instructor and lead other people.

“I feel great,” he said. “It’s good for my health, and I feel relaxed and healthy.”  

Most people drop out of the program because it’s too slow, he said, and get discouraged.

“They need the program the most because those are the people who need to slow down,” he said.

Sharon Sullivan added that relieving stress through Tai Chi is excellent.

“That’s why I started,” she said.

Newcomer Judie Marshall got started two weeks ago because her balance is not right.

“It was bad enough to be concerned,” she said. “I have been doing other things, like pilates, yet my balance was not great. You have to do something specifically for balance.”

She loves the teacher-to-student ratio for RSVP classes.

“There are three teachers for 16 of us, and it’s amazing because we get a lot of one-on-one coaching and we need that,” she said. “I need that.”

Tom Kruschke started doing a class at the Wilson Senior Center a year ago and is also doing Tai Chi for arthritis in Camarillo.

“This has given me another physical activity I can take on,” he said. “I have arthritis in my knees, so it’s helping me with my arthritis and gives me movement, it keeps me going and I practice at home, so it gives me a little direction in that way.”

At first, he said the mechanics are challenging, but the commitment to practicing becomes second nature and pays dividends.

“I am at the point where I turn my mind off and go on muscle memory,” he said.

Sullivan said the best part of RSVP is they are retired seniors who teach the class.

“There is a social component, you can tell everyone is learning, and they come, help, and it gives us a purpose,” she said. “We are also doing good for others.” 

Stroke victims also benefit from the program, she said, even if they are using a walker.

“They teach us to minimize movements, but still use their body for fluidity,” he said.

According to the National Council on Aging, Eastlake said falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of non-fatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults. Falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths.

"Even though falls become a part of aging for some people, they are not inevitable,” she said. “Participating in classes like this evidence-based falls prevention program can help substantially reduce falls. They are fun, both for participants, who make friends and feel better about taking control of their life, and our volunteer instructors." 

To register, contact rsvp@oxnard.org, or call 805-385-8019.