THE NEW YORK TIMES – Len Kaplan began having difficulty walking in a straight line when he was in his 50s. Scoliosis combined with compressed discs in his back were causing his balance to deteriorate.
“Physical therapy, regular exercises, just wasn’t getting the job done. I needed something different,” Len, now 80, said.
Around that time Len and his wife, Ginny, took a cruise with twice-daily Tai Chi classes. Ginny, 77, said they loved Tai Chi — which consists of slow, controlled movements and deep breathing — so much they found a class in nearby Yorba Linda, Calif., when they returned home. The habit stuck.
Len and Ginny have now been taking Tai Chi and balance classes regularly for more than 15 years. Len is able to easily walk in a straight line and his balance has improved.
Last September while visiting Greece, Len and Ginny decided to hike the nearly 100 steps to the top of the Acropolis.
Up they went, over slippery, uneven steps with no hand rails. They made it to the top and were rewarded with ancient ruins and sweeping views of Athens below.
“At my age I know people who would go, ‘Oh no, I’ll stand at the bottom in the parking lot and take pictures, thank you,’” Ginny said, “but how fun is that?”
Balance training is an important but often-neglected skill, one that impacts both our longevity and our quality of life, beginning around age 40.
A study in June by a Brazilian team found that 20 percent of the 1,700 older adults tested couldn’t balance on one leg for 10 seconds or more. And that inability to balance was associated with a twofold risk of death from any cause within 10 years.
If you have tried out the one-legged test (with a wall or chair nearby for safety) and didn’t pass, don’t panic. It’s never too late to start working on balance training, even if you can pass the 10 second test, especially if you’re over age 50 …