Senior balance, movement classes aim to prevent falls

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Rancho Santa Fe resident Mordy Levine began teaching balance and movement classes specifically designed for seniors to reduce the risk of falls as they age.

Classes are Wednesdays at 10 a.m. at the Rancho Santa Fe Senior Center and Fridays at 10:30 a.m. at the Rancho Santa Fe Library. Beginning April 7, it will begin offering classes at the Encinitas Senior Center.

A martial arts, yoga and tai chi instructor for over 40 years, Levine has lived in Rancho Santa Fe for 10 years after spending most of his life on the East Coast.

Throughout his business career, he founded and operated several companies in the technology and pharmaceutical fields. He is also president of the Jigme Lingpa Center in San Diego, a non-profit organization that offers many courses and activities on Buddha’s teachings.

Levine said he would not have survived his highly stressful business career without his practice of martial arts, yoga, tai chi and meditation. A second-degree black belt, he recently stopped practicing martial arts but still practices yoga and tai chi on a daily basis as well as a lot of rock climbing.

“I remember when I started karate I thought ‘I can’t believe how good I feel, everyone in the world should be doing karate’. I feel the same way about it for the elderly,” he said. “I know there is a need when I see how many people are falling.”

About six months ago, Levine was motivated to teach seniors because of his experience with the seniors in his life, including his 91-year-old stepmother who lives with him and his wife Elizabeth in Rancho Santa Fe. After his 94-year-old father’s 99-year-old girlfriend fell and ended up in hospital, he learned more about the high risk of falls that older people face after reaching the age of 65: “The statistics are not good.

According to the CDC, one in four seniors falls each year, a total of 36 million falls. Falls in adults aged 65 and older caused more than 34,000 deaths in 2019, the leading cause of injury death for this group.

Three million emergency room visits in 2019 were due to falls by older people and one in five falls results in a serious injury such as a broken bone or head trauma.

“I had the idea to modify my tai chi class to reduce falls because the stakes are very high,” he said. “Falls are preventable, that’s the good part. My motivation is to help reduce the risk of falls for seniors.

His classes allow seniors to learn and practice easy movements designed to develop stability, coordination and confidence.

“The number one problem is just paying attention,” he said. “You might be in great physical shape, but if you’re not careful, you’re going to fall.”

He works on the basic forms of tai chi with an emphasis on posture, balance, muscle relaxation and breathing. In class, he also encourages seniors to play games and dance: “Learning should be fun, whether you’re 3 or 93.”

In addition to giving seniors the confidence and skills to prevent them from falling, classes can also help improve their mental and physical health. The exercise is an energy boost, both for the participants and for Levine.

“Love it,” Levine said of teaching her new classes. “There’s just a huge satisfaction when you see the lightness in their step as they leave the class empowered, confident and feeling great.”

To learn more, visit mordylevine.com/teaching

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