Tai Chi instills a sense of well being across the generations

The elderly residents of a Motherwell care home are discovering the benefits of Tai Chi ... with a little help from some young friends.

Nursery children and residents at Park Springs are learning tai chi together
Nursery children and residents at Park Springs are learning tai chi together

Parksprings Home in Motherwell invited Morag McDade, a trainer from Dr Paul Lam’s Tai Chi for Health Institute, to give their residents a weekly class.

Most residents have very limited mobiity, some have Alzheimer’s disease and others suffer depression.

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When Rosie Brennan took up her post as activity co-ordinator at the care home, she wanted to find something that would give the residents appropriate physical and mental stimulation, in addition to relaxation and social stimulation.

And, after some research, she felt that Tai Chi for Health sessions might just fit the bill, which is when Morag came along.

She said: “The first sessions went very well.

“Some residents were a little reticent or self-conscious at first but it was wonderful to see them beginning to join in intermittently with even one or two of the movements as the weeks passed.

“Some napped on and off during the session but joined in each time they woke up!

“The warm-ups were very popular and it was wonderful to see their enthusiasm, participation and alertness develop week by week.”

After a few weeks, a new dimension was added to the sessions – Rosie felt that inviting local nursery children to join in would make even more of an impact.

Firstly, a group of children from FirTrees Nursery went along, with three nursery staff members.

More recently, children and staff from Forgewood Nursery have also been involved and the children joined in with the first half hour of each class.

Rosie Brennan, who suggested the project, could not be more pleased with the results.

She said: “It’s been absolutely amazing! The residents really love the children being there and the wee ones love coming along.

“The children are helping the residents and the residents are helping the children – it’s just working so well.

So well, in fact, that the care home has acquired funding from the Motherwell Consortium to make sure that the project will continue until October next year, at the very least.

There is now research into how much of a physical difference the sessions are making to the clients at the care home.

“The care inspectorate is very keen to promote physical activity – it’s a case of if you don’t use it you lose it!” said Rosie.

“In everything we do, we’re trying to keep them active because that promotes a better quality of life.

“It can help promote well being and also boosts their confidence and happiness!”

Bringing the children along has worked out every bit as well as Rosie hoped it would – and she had high hopes to begin with.

“It’s always been great to get children involved. You see how much grans and grandads are part of their children’s lives – when you go into a care home, you don’t have as much contact, so we try to bring children in as much as we can.

“The children are often a little bit nervous at first but that soon disappears and they are very comfortable.

“It’s great to see – and they all work together doing the tai chi, which is brilliant.

“Dr Paul Lam has heard about it and is delighted – he’s been telling people all over the world about how great it is what we’re doing at Parksprings!”

Morag, too, has been delighted with the results.

She said: “At every weekly session, the children’s lovely, bright energy immediately has a very positive effect on the older participants.”

The sessions start with refreshments for everyone, something that gives the two groups the chance to settle and say hello to one another prior to the Tai Chi session.

Morag added: “There is lots of happy chatter and we have gentle music playing to create a tranquil and happy environment for everyone.

“The ‘Big People’ are then asked if they will help by showing the children some of the Tai Chi that they themselves have been practising, while the children are given the important job of helping me to check that the older class members are carrying out the movements properly.

“From the very first session, each group has more than risen to the task.

“The children are encouraged to join in and copy the movements and, so far, there have been no disputes!”