According to the CDC, falls are the number one reason for death and injury among people age 65 and older. More than two million older people went to an emergency room in 2010 because of a fall.
From the article “The Science of Trips and Falls” (link)
“After a fall, older people often say they tripped or slipped. Researchers at Simon Fraser University, in Burnaby, British Columbia, wanted to observe what really happens. The team outfitted a long-term-care facility with video cameras and recorded residents going about their daily lives. They recorded 227 falls from 130 individuals over about three years. Tripping caused just 1 out of 5 of the incidents. The biggest reason for falling—accounting for 41% of the total—was due to incorrect weight shifting, like leaning over too far, says Stephen Robinovitch, a professor in the biomedical physiology and kinesiology and engineering science departments. Other, less frequent reasons for falling included loss of support with an external object, like a walker, or bumping into something.”
Using Tai Chi in the gait retraining process. Watch the attached video above.
This is particularly useful in reteaching weight transfer in the elderly or in the post operative hip, knee or foot clients. It is most useful in post operative total hip or total knee replacements. Note the slow loading responses which focus on effective weight transfer and loading as well as forcing safe balance challenges because the other foot is always skimming across the floor if needed.
Also, note that the transfers are always facilitating ankle dorsiflexion, just make sure you are not teaching this with knee extension lockout because it will cheat the amount of effort and wanted challenge to the anterior compartment.
We use the tai chi transfers as shown in our rehab in specific cases, but if you are dealing with the elderly, this is a great part of a daily program to reduce the fall statistics we listed earlier. It helps the post operative cases and elderly where exactly are the limits of their safe weight shifting and where the risk zone of excessive weight shift begins.
If you are looking for a good soft gentle way to:
1- improve balance
2- increase awareness of weight shifts that are not beyond the frontal plane stability of the hip (ie. improve awareness of the gluteus medius and lateral hip stabilizers)
3- improve the awareness of the back leg hip extension and gluteus maximus use during the forward weight transfer
4- improving anterior compartment awareness, skill and strength
5- improve weight bearing ankle rocker motion
… . then the basic tai chi walking weight transfer is an excellent start. I have taught my 80 year old parents this simple daily challenge and I think it will reduce their falls. We have used this in post operative knees and hips and it is a nice gentle start for many clients. And when done super slow in a deep knee bend the challenges as described by our upper level athletes are surprising to both us and them. Do tai chi for 30 minutes and learn its secret values. Millions of people around the world all can’t be wrong.
Shawn and Ivo, taking gait to new dimensions.