As calming music plays in the background, 11 older women listen as physical therapist Diane Brose enters a warm-up for a discipline known as Tai Chi Fundamentals: “Feel your feet. Feel the four corners of your feet. Your knees are soft, your tailbone is heavy. Don’t worry about yesterday, tomorrow will take care of itself. Now, we’re here, and it’s safe.”
For these women, safety was a real issue; as they had all volunteered in a University of Wisconsin–Madison study focused on balance. Specifically, could a stripped-down tai chi class, taught in just 12 sessions and also practiced at home, improve balance in people over age 65 who were concerned about balance?
Balance and falls are a major issue for older people, says Betty Chewning, a principal investigator on “Improving Balance for Older Adults,” a grant funded by the Institute for Clinical and Translational Research in a collaboration with the Community Academic Aging Research Network (CAARN) at UW–Madison.