Elskè Winten began attending Tai Chi lessons when she was sixty-nine. That was thirty years ago. A month away from her one-hundredth birthday, she’s still practicing Tai Chi every week.
“Glenn Blythe has been my teacher all those years; he’s very patient,” she told me.
Many people enjoy Tai Chi as slow and gentle exercise, though it was originally developed for self-defence.
“How has it benefitted you over the years?” I asked Elskè.
“I have better balance than many people younger than me,” she replied. “And I have to concentrate so I expect it’s good for my brain as well,” she added.
I asked her teacher, Glenn Blythe, of the Tai Chi School of Gentle Exercise, the same question.
“There’s benefit to joint mobility. All joints work in relation to each other and to gravity, so she moves more easily. The same joints don’t consistently bear her weight. She moves with fluidity, has better posture and better balance,” he answered.
There’s also greater lower limb strength and in someone who’s been doing Tai Chi as long as Elskè has. Her bone density is far better than other elderly people. She also has a stronger awareness of her postural alignment.
It is certainly clear she moves better than many people her age.
About ten years ago, Elskè bought a walking stick.
“I bought it because it’s pretty,” she said, showing me a cane, its surface adorned in a floral print. “It’ll come in handy if I ever need it.”
Rhonda Valentine Dixon