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Oklahoma students use tai chi exercises to help seniors avoid falling

University of Central Oklahoma students are using tai chi exercises as an exercise regimen to help senior citizens improve their strength and balance.
BY JIM KILLACKEY Published: April 25, 2013

Therapists say falling is not a normal part of aging.

“Fall prevention includes exercise, medication review, risk-factor reduction and home-safety modifications,” said Carolyn Craven, director of the Balance and Dizziness Clinic at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City.

She encourages seniors to build exercise into their daily routines. Balance can be improved with exercises that strengthen the ankle, knee and hip muscles, and there are effective treatments available for those who experience balance problems or dizziness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of three adults older than 65 will experience a fall this year.

Fear of falling can cause limitations in daily functions and can lead to perceived restrictions in leisure and community life. The center has tests to improve balance. One helpful website is

“For too long, we have promoted the idea that retirement and late life is about slowing down and sitting down,” said Melissa Powers, a professor in UCO's Department of Kinesiology and Health Studies.

Supervised weight training is at the forefront of Powers' classes, which serve 80 seniors at five sites in Oklahoma City and Edmond. Classes primarily are for seniors 75 and older who live independently. UCO students assist with the classes.

In tune with health

At Oklahoma City's Woodson Park Recreation Center, seniors are attuned to staying healthy as they age.

“I want to stay active as long as possible,” said Ruby Houchin, 82, who attends classes for help with arthritis, along with line dancing and Middle Eastern dancing. “Life is too wonderful to let only the young enjoy it.”

Woodson Park regular Betty Noblitt, 81, has a simple mantra: “Stay mobile, keep moving, be active.” She uses weight training and water aerobics to maintain muscle mass and bone density.

“We are learning about old age — what is normal and what is not,” said UCO student Devon Young, 21, of Edmond. “We are also learning about the behaviors and precautionary measures that can be taken to help extend life expectancy and improve quality of life among elders.”