Free tai chi classes for seniors will be offered at the Malheur Council on Aging. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

ONTARIO – A free tai chi class specifically developed for seniors is returning to the Malheur Council on Aging starting Feb. 24. Tai chi is a gentle form of martial arts.

The class at the Ontario nonprofit, 842 S.E. First Ave., targets adults age 60 and over and is designed to prevent falls. Classes will focus on improving balance, increasing mobility and reducing pain.

“As we age, falls within the home and outside the home become an increasing concern,” said Tom Longoria, senior programs manager at the agency. “This version of tai chi was specifically developed with seniors in mind.”

The class will run for 12 weeks on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Pre-registration can be done by phone at 541-889-7651.

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The program being used for the class, Tai Chi: Movement for Better Balance, was developed by a team at the Oregon Research Institute. It consists of light stretches and exercises that progress from easy to more difficult, but exercises can be modified to suit individual needs. Participants are asked to wear loose, comfortable clothing.

“The way the class is designed is it builds from one session to the next,” Longoria said. “What they learn in class one impacts what they learn in class two.” 

Among the benefits attributed to tai chi are stress reduction and positive effects on blood pressure.

The class isn’t just beneficial for the body – “It also offers a chance for socialization,” he said.

Longoria said the nonprofit receives a lot of inquiries about the tai chi classes throughout the year. In the past, the council has held classes at other locations in the county, including the senior centers in Nyssa and Vale.

Longoria said the response to the class has always been positive because participants “see there’s a definite increase in their abilities, balance and stability.”

About half of the participants in the last class were returning students.

Longoria said the nonprofit’s target is adults 60 and up, but everyone is welcome to participate. The nonprofit is taking up to 15 participants, but depending on the level of interest, Longoria said they might add a second round of classes.

Have a news tip? Reporter Yadira Lopez: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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