Thursday, June 21, 2012

Chair Tai Chi

Complements of the internet

It did not go as I expected.
Not at all.
I walked into a room of elderly men and women, all of whom were sitting in wheelchairs.
Seventeen people were asleep.
Two ladies were wide awake and ready for me.
One gentleman looked awake, blue eyes bright and cheerful, but in the next instant, he had dozed off.

My whole lesson plan flew out the window.
I had prepared a short talk on the origins of Tai Chi, along with a brief description of this ancient practice, and its associated health benefits.

No one would have understood a word.

I stood in the centre of the room, ladies and gentlemen seated all around me, while I moved among the residents, like a floating cloud or a butterfly.

My intention was to hold a class, as in demonstrating tai chi moves in front of a group of people. They would be sitting in neat rows watching and participating as much as possible, taking into account any physical disabilities.

It did not happen that way.

I had forgotten that most people residing in nursing homes were there for a reason. They no longer had the mental capacity to stay alone in their own homes.

Over the previous week, I had researched the internet and my own memory banks, to come up with a program of tai chi moves suitable for people in wheelchairs. I had practiced those moves at home, over and over until I was satisfied.

It did not matter one iota.

The two sweet old ladies who actually followed my moves, became tired very quickly. I had not thought of that, even though I knew the residents were elderly.
As a result, short frequent breaks needed to be incorporated into an already pared down version of my original plan.

But despite all this, I felt the atmosphere was comfortable, respectful. Serene actually. Nurses were compassionate and patient. My sweet old ladies smiled. One of them complimented the colour of my blouse -  roses and cream.
The blue-eyed gentleman caught my eye once or twice as I was "sweeping lotus petals in the stream" and I wondered if there was a spark of interest somewhere deep down in the centre of his being. In a place normally hidden from ordinary eyes.

Next week, I will go back and try again.
This time I will be ready.

This time I will work with a much smaller group - those who are awake and interested.
This time I will make a point of reaching out to connect with each dear soul, before beginning the structure of a class.

Will Chair Tai Chi benefit this group of soon-to-be-ancestors?
Will it strengthen each tired body, sharpen each cloudy mind and nourish each fragile soul?

I hope so.


Karin said...

Working with the frail and fragile elderly in the nursing home is a totally different experience. Having worked there for over 25 yrs. I can certainly relate! What was awesome for me was how one man who couldn't make intelligent words any more in conversation, when asked to pray spoke intelligently and correctly in his German mother tongue! What an awesome God we have! Physically this man seemed cognitively 'not there', but spiritually he was totally alive! My best memory so far!!

mxtodis123 said...

I worked with the elderly for awhile myself. It was quite an experience as well as very satisfying. They can be so, so sweet.

My favorite memory was of a little old Irish woman with a lilt who kept pleading with me to visit. Now, I worked in the office so we usually didn't visit, but for her, I went out of my way. I will never forget her words, "I'm going to write this in my journal...that Mary came to visit." She remains in my heart today.

Beverly said...

Those two above comments just warmed my heart as did your post. If there is only one there who profits from your visit, it will be worth the trip.

Hilary said...

It will indeed because YOU nourish the soul. You are a gem, dear Wendy.

joanne said...

You may never see it in their faces but you have already touched their souls just by being there, be being you, by caring...;j

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hope it works for them, Wendy... They do need some exercise and stimulation.. Anything you can give them should help.... Good Luck.

Rose said...

I can relate to this, Wendy. Two years ago I volunteered to give a presentation on Earth Day along with another Master Gardener for some group. I spent hours putting together a slide show and making notes about native flowers, bees, etc. I then found out it was an adult daycare facility, and when I got there, I discovered most of the clients had Alzheimers and had to do even more adapting. They did like the pictures of all the pretty flowers, though!

I'm sure your class will help the residents, and they will appreciate all that you teach them. I think Tai Chi has so many benefits that it can help anyone.

Maggie May said...

I really hope the next session will go better. Is it possible that you could do hand massage? I know its not Tai Chi but elderly folk like to be touched & maybe they could connect through doing that .... to bigger things.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Wendy said...

Awww, thanks everyone. I do appreciate you taking the time to comment - and such lovely and supportive comments too!

Q said...

Dear Wendy,
You are the answered prayer. Your spirit brings joy. I am 100% sure your energy will lift their spirits even if they only just watch you "sweep lotus petals into the stream".
I am filled with smiles just reading such delightful words.
You are amazing....
Happy Summer,
Happy sweeping lotus petals....
Sherry, who shall sweep lotus petals too

Grammy said...

You are amazing Wendy. :)

Ruth said...

Good for you. We have wheelchair Tai Chi classes at our rehab hospital and even if just a few people respond it is worthwhile. Our exercises classes also vary when it comes to participation.

Cheryl said...

My dear Wendy,

I am sure with time your patience and care will pay dividends.

I remember my late mother in law saying, that when a younger person comes into the room and talks to you, it makes you feel as though you still belong......

Well done Wendy, keep up the good work, I know you will make a difference.

Shammickite said...

My Scottish Country Dance group often goes to nursing homes to demonstrate dances. We don't expect any of the oldies to join in, just to enjoy the music and the movement. But it's really depressing.... only about 5% of the audience actually know what's going on. But the nurses and caregivers all say that our visit brightens up everyone's day. So it's worth it!

ShySongbird said...

I am sure at least some of your visit will have touched them Wendy, just your presence will have been valuable! The fact that you cared enough to go and spend time with them in the first place will have made an impression I'm sure and it is very possible that more registered with them than was immediately apparent.

When I had severe pneumonia a few years ago (which crossed the blood/brain barrier and meant I was in a 'strange other world' for some days) it was expected I would remember nothing afterwards. Unfortunately, that was not the case and the experience has haunted me ever since and I have always thought that the world I was 'locked' in must be very similar to what happens to elderly people who suffer from dementia. A lot of what happened around me got through in some way but was more like a strange dream which I could only observe but not participate in and which was also muddled with hallucinatory images. There is so much we don't understand about the brain but I am absolutely sure your visit will have made a difference and brightened the lives of those residents. Well done Wendy :-)

sarah said...

I sure think they got nutrition of mind from you.

Before, our chorus visited a nursing home. When we were singing ふるさと(hometown),an old man stood up and staggering came to us and started conducting with watery eyes,though he couldn't speak.

They are glad for your visit,I think. So Take it easy for them.

Jackie said...

How sweet you are, Wendy.
I can imagine the love in the eyes of the elderly as they encountered you...willing to help and work with them...and their longing to be loved and cared for. Just because the body isn't able any more doesn't mean the mind has forgotten the need. You go girl!
May God bless you immensely, Wendy.
Big hugs to you.

JeanMac said...

Bless you!

Deborah said...

Oh how wonderful you are!!! I love how you actually SEE the person inside. You are making a difference in the world. **clapping of many hands** Deb

Deborah said...

Hello Old Friend! Thanks for visiting me again. Yes, no new mets is good. Buying us time. The oral trial drug study is much easier than IV walk in the park, but still much better quality of life. We hold onto life. Big Love, Deb

Liara Covert said...

Conditioned filters of the mind would have you believe you see difference in age, ability, and other reasons to think you are separate from or not reaching your audience. In truth, you are one in the process of recognizing itself. The mind imagines fear into being, has you believe you may not be doing enough, may not connect or spark interest. The heart knows what you say matters less than how you feel. You convey love infinite ways, through every part of you, seen and unseen. Rest aassured, everyone benefits from this loving intention whether or not they communicate with words.