Re: Aikido Focused on Seniors
Janet, thanks for your comments and contributions in this area.
I agree that the term fall "prevention" is somewhat of a misnomer though that is the current term most people us to discuss the subject. Trying to understand minimize the risk factors associated with falling and then trying to minimize the effects of falling are the two main elements in a good fall prevention program. It's not like a cold where you wake up one morning and suddenly discover you have caught a bad case of "the falls". Falls are the results of other factors, those can be medical issues, home environmental safety issues, and physical conditioning issues. Also there are combinations of all these issues together which result in a higher degree of risk of falling.
Shoes types can be a contributor to the risk of falling especially for older adults. Thick soled shoes, as you mentioned, should be avoided if at all possible. I know a lot of adults especially those who suffer from diabetes often wear these sorts of shoes, partially to protect the toes from injury. But they can make it much more difficult to move, judge distance and steps, and therefore increase the risk of falling. Thinner soled shoes are definitely preferable, and house shoes with nonskid soles are generally advisable for inside the home.
The in vogue type of exercise often mentioned in conjunction with fall prevention efforts for seniors currently appears to be tai chi. Again it's benefits involve proper breathing exercise, relaxation, and working on balance through slow movements. I do believe that an aikido based approach could also be beneficial for some seniors. The emphasis on awareness of the environment around you, not just an attacker, is an important aspect which can be applied by seniors from aikido. You should be aware of loose telephone wires, and other obstructions on the floor and removing those hazards as much as someone trying to push you down.
Within the next twenty years approximately 1/3 of the U.S. population will be age 60 or older. Creating classes in aikido which recognize this fact, and adapt the training to focus on the reasonable needs and objectives of this age group makes more and more sense. Where younger people may be more focused on the self-defense aspects of training or more high impact move and exercise, the older group likely would desire the focus to be on a slower type routine, with focus on enhancing mobility and improving balance, along with a more laid back relaxed social component possibly. Perhaps adding elements in class of discussions for example involving the risks of changing medications and multiple medication interactions could be as relevant as watching out for who is walking up behind you in a dark parking lot for the older students.
Early in the morning and later in the afternoon and evening seems to be the "normal" time for traditional aikido classes. When people become older they tend to like be home during the evening. So the late morning and early afternoon would tend to be a better time for offering classes focused on seniors without conflicting with more traditional class time offerings.