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Old 08-18-2013, 10:06 AM   #1
BAP
Dojo: Union University Aikido
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Aikido Focused on Seniors

I was interested if anyone had implemented a class focused on seniors or the more elderly. If so, how are those classes structured what areas are focused on for this group? Taking traditional ukemi in the traditional sense isn't very practical or appealing for this age group (especially those just beginning). What is the age range for those who attend these classes?

I am running a nonprofit organization focusing on fall prevention and mobility issues and an important aspect of that is exercise and fitness issues. A lot of the general interest currently relating to seniors seems to be focused on tai chi as beneficial for seniors, but I was wondering how aikido might be adapted for this group. The focus would have to be much more on flexibility, mobility, fitness generally, with much smaller component being a martial arts component.

Thanks for any of your insights.

Blair Presson
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Old 08-18-2013, 10:30 AM   #2
Michael Hackett
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Re: Aikido Focused on Seniors

Blair, Janet Rosen is conducting no-fall aikido classes in Northern California currently and probably can be of assistance. She is here on AikiWeb frequently.

Michael
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Old 08-18-2013, 12:19 PM   #3
Janet Rosen
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Re: Aikido Focused on Seniors

There are many of us doing low impact or no-fall aikido around the world that I know of now...
Aikido in Fredericksburg in Virginia is hosting a one day seminar on teaching this at end of August
http://www.gashuku.net/documents/No-FallFlyer2013.pdf
And there is a yahoo conversation group on the topic you can join
http://sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/nofallaikido/

Janet Rosen
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Old 08-18-2013, 12:22 PM   #4
Janet Rosen
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Re: Aikido Focused on Seniors

Personally, as a geriatric nurse case manager, what I would love to do is get people in their 30s through 50s who may or may not be interested in martial arts, and teach them NOT low impact aikido but how to be comfortable on the ground and slowly progress them into full out falls and rolls so that as older folks they do not have reflexive terror about falling.
But nobody seems interested in this, alas.

Janet Rosen
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Old 08-19-2013, 01:55 AM   #5
sakumeikan
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Re: Aikido Focused on Seniors

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
Personally, as a geriatric nurse case manager, what I would love to do is get people in their 30s through 50s who may or may not be interested in martial arts, and teach them NOT low impact aikido but how to be comfortable on the ground and slowly progress them into full out falls and rolls so that as older folks they do not have reflexive terror about falling.
But nobody seems interested in this, alas.
Dear Janet,
Since there are golden oldies in the community who often fall down and break their hips I would imagine a programme designed to make people more proficient in ukemi would be useful.The basic precautions of protecting oneself from damage is not too hard to learn even if the person is not a person involved in martial arts. Anything that prevents injuries to the oldies[me included ]must be a worthwhile project.As the saying goes prevention is better than a cure.Cheers, Joe
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Old 08-19-2013, 09:30 AM   #6
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Re: Aikido Focused on Seniors

Hi Blair,

Janet also just published a column on her low-impact aikido classes. The column and subsequent discussion on this topic may be found here:

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22821

-- Jun

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Old 08-19-2013, 10:44 AM   #7
Janet Rosen
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Re: Aikido Focused on Seniors

Hi, Blair,
A few random thoughts.
Just had a chance to look at the website.
It seems like from the Fed. govt on down everybody talks about "falls prevention." Personally I don't like it because it isn't realistic. All of us, at any age, can and do fall, because accidents happen. Minimizing risk of falls is I think a more realistic approach.
The other place I'm a contrarian is on shoes. Except for people with severe neuropathy or severe ortho problems in the foot, the last thing people need is to be isolated from the environment by thick soles. Part of maintaining good balance as we age is maintaining proprioceptive skills, and I like to see people in the least separation possible - in the house, barefoot or in the skidproof socks like hospitals use; in the world, thin soled shoes like mocs, kung fu shoes, minimalist shoes, etc.
Besides reducing the risk of falls, how can we teach people to survive falls?

Janet Rosen
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Old 08-21-2013, 01:15 PM   #8
Linda Eskin
 
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Re: Aikido Focused on Seniors

This is definitely an area of interest for me. As one who discovered Aikido in my mid-40s, and has gotten tremendous benefit from training, I would love to find ways to share it. I have told people, in discussions of how effective my technique might be "on the street" that the real "self defense" benefit for me (and it's only a minor benefit, compared to the rest, I think) is in learning how to move and fall, and in developing the core strength and balance to avoid falling. I aspire to be old someday. I'd like to be old and strong and sound. :-)

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Old 08-22-2013, 12:27 PM   #9
BAP
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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.

Blair Presson
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Old 08-22-2013, 03:55 PM   #10
Janet Rosen
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Re: Aikido Focused on Seniors

Quote:
Blair Presson wrote: View Post
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.
EXCELLENT point!

Janet Rosen
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Old 08-28-2013, 12:34 AM   #11
Linda Eskin
 
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Re: Aikido Focused on Seniors

This topic just got *more* interesting for me, personally. A local friend, about 60-something, is asking me about Aikido. She's seen the difference training has made in my life, and wants something like it in her life, too. She just got back from the ortho doc with a diagnosis of severe arthritis in her spine, and they recommended a new knee and hip joint just for good measure. She has trouble even walking, because sometimes things get pinched and she just drops. Augggh. She's understandably quite unhappy about the whole situation, and looking for options. She's mentioned Tai Chi, which would be a good thing. I think feeling more comfortable on the ground, falling, and getting up would help her be more confident and safe, too. But I don't really have anything to offer her in the way of special classes. We are very inclusive in our "regular" classes. We have people who can't roll, one guy with CP... I think she'd be *able* to participate and would get a lot out of it, but she sees the physicality of training as a barrier. Hmmm... Something to think about.

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Old 08-28-2013, 08:50 AM   #12
Janet Rosen
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Re: Aikido Focused on Seniors

Linda, Frankly, having had an ACL so unstable I would just drop, I do NOT see that as being safe in a m.a. based on partner practice.
I would think that what would benefit her would be a multi-disciplinary approach: 1) if she has health insurance to cover PT specifically working on plyometrics to improve dynamic balance 2) tai chi for learning to feel her body and learn grounding, improve proprioception, etc and 3) Pilates to strengthen core - if she doesn't want to go to a lot of classes she can at least learn enough to develop a 10 minute regimen she can do regularly at home. Then see if she wants to progress into aikido.

Janet Rosen
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Old 09-08-2013, 11:31 AM   #13
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Re: Aikido Focused on Seniors

I was going to do weapons for warm-ups yesterday morning. Dora broke her wrist in early August and has been on the mat since we re-opened on September, 2nd. Wanting to be inclusive I got out the swimmy noodles that are cut in half and we did weapons warm-ups with the noodles in place of bokkens. We then broke up into partners and each couple made up a noodle kata consisting of 3 strikes and 3 counters. As I worked with my partner I kept an eye and ear on the rest of the class. Everyone was busy and happy.

Just before class ended we demonstrated our little katas again. We all pretty much remembered them. This class was made up of all 3rd Dan and above but the idea could be modified for any and all levels of practice.

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Old 10-06-2013, 11:28 AM   #14
BAP
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Re: Aikido Focused on Seniors

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Besides reducing the risk of falls, how can we teach people to survive falls?
I think reducing the risk of falls and teaching people to survive the falls are very similar. It all starts with reducing the risks first as much as possible.

You do have to recognize and appreciate that no matter what falls are going to happen eventually. At that point then "surviving the fall" becomes all important. How a person survives is crucial. The best way is to be prepared through proper physical conditioning to accept the fall. This includes good general physical conditioning (strength and flexibility). If your body can accept the consequences of a fall including the impact itself of the fall, that is the most basic component of surviving the fall once it happens. Having sufficient muscle development and joint flexibility are crucial to avoid serious injury at that point.

What aikido can do is assist with the area of good body mechanics (ie., ukemi) which are required in taking a fall. The strength and flexibility issues can help strengthen the body when the fall happens, but knowing how to "accept" the fall process is critical. Some items have to be ingrained through practice such as how to allow the impact of a fall to be dissipated over as much surface of the body as possible. Many falls involve breaking bones such as the wrist because the person tries to "catch" themselves going down.

Finally, we must acknowledge that some seniors are much less likely to survive a fall because of their general physical condition. This can be because of development of medical conditions such as osteoporosis or other types of problems which make bones more likely to break and prone to injury. For this group they should consider items such as hip protectors which can be worn under their clothing for additional protection in the event of a fall. Others should make sure they use a properly fitted (sized) walking cane or other form of walking assistance (ie,roller).

The secret is to structure a program geared to each individual to assist them to survive the fall when it occurs at the same time allowing them to have the greatest amount of mobility and personal independence in the process.

Blair Presson
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Old 10-06-2013, 11:40 AM   #15
BAP
Dojo: Union University Aikido
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Re: Aikido Focused on Seniors

Quote:
Mary Eastland wrote: View Post
I was going to do weapons for warm-ups yesterday morning. Dora broke her wrist in early August and has been on the mat since we re-opened on September, 2nd. Wanting to be inclusive I got out the swimmy noodles that are cut in half and we did weapons warm-ups with the noodles in place of bokkens. We then broke up into partners and each couple made up a noodle kata consisting of 3 strikes and 3 counters. As I worked with my partner I kept an eye and ear on the rest of the class. Everyone was busy and happy.

Just before class ended we demonstrated our little katas again. We all pretty much remembered them. This class was made up of all 3rd Dan and above but the idea could be modified for any and all levels of practice.
This is a very good example of how to adapt our aikido training for the needs of certain seniors or others, either because of injury or lack of confidence in general for certain activities. Adapting the methods and equipment to make it less threatening and just more enjoyable (less stressful) is a good idea. Can always use that method to bring those individuals eventually back into a regular class using traditional equipment (bokken etc.).

Blair Presson
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