AN ancient Chinese martial art is becoming all the rage among pensioners in a Renfrewshire town.
Members of the Johnstone Seniors Forum have been taking part in tai chi classes, thanks to cash support from the Awards for All Fund and their Local Area Committee.
From a small turnout for the first class, the weekly sessions have quickly grown, with around 40 OAPs going along to get some exercise together.
Instructor Fiona Clarkson leads the class in a range of slow arm and leg movements which are meant to stimulate and regulate the chi – a person’s natural energy.
With relaxing Chinese music playing in the background, there is a light-hearted, fun atmosphere during the class.
And, for many participants, their favourite part of the hour is the 10-minute meditation session at the end, when everyone sits in a circle to relax.
Fiona told the Paisley Daily Express: “I like working with older people and they all seem to enjoy themselves here.
“They’re improving as the classes progress. I can see a big difference in the ones who have been coming along since the classes started.”
Eddie McMillan, chairman of Johnstone Seniors Forum, reckons you’re never too old to try something new and he’s delighted that the group was handed cash to launch the tai chi classes.
“When you’re filling in forms for grants, you’ve got to have a project in mind and we thought tai chi would be quite good,” said 74-year-old Eddie.“It’s been very successful. The forum has meetings once a month but a lot more people come along to the tai chi classes than come to the meetings.
“We hope to get more people coming along. It gives people a reason to get out the house.
“At the first class, we had 15 people there but it soon grew bigger and bigger. I put up notices but a lot of people have found out about the classes through friends.”
The forum was relaunched by Eddie’s wife, Margaret, about four years ago after numbers had slumped.
Initially, meetings took place at the day centre in Walkinshaw Street but such has been the forum’s success of late that gatherings now take place at Johnstone Town Hall.
Speakers go along to the meetings, which are held on the first Wednesday in every month, from 1.30pm till 3.30pm, and the group also enjoys outings to the Ayrshire coast, pantomimes and the likes, as well as events such as a Burns’ Supper and a Christmas party.
The tai chi classes take place at Johnstone Town Hall every Tuesday, from 11am until noon, and cost £1.
Albert McBain, 70, admits the classes are the only exercise he tackles these days – unless you count getting out of bed in the morning!
“Tai chi is a nice exercise which is suitable for us as you can go at your own pace,” said Albert, who is secretary of the seniors forum and hails from Johnstone. “I’d never done anything like tai chi before but it’s good.”
Joyce Fraser, 83, has a grandson who teaches English in China, so she has a special interest in tai chi.
The Johnstone woman said: “I have been telling him all about the classes. He said his students do tai chi and I told him he has to try it as well!
“I find the classes relaxing and they’re suitable for our age group.
“For pensioners, it’s a good form of exercise.”
Ian McDonald, 74, has been going to the tai chi classes since they started.
The Johnstone OAP said: “My grandson is a PE teacher and personal trainer and he helped to show me what’s involved.
“It’s a martial arts but a gentler version compared to some of the others.”
Alister Bain, 76, also from Johnstone, had a hernia operation a year ago and said the classes are helping to aid his recovery.
He said: “Tai chi is terrific. It stimulates my whole body.
“I can notice myself getting better each week.”
Margaret McMillan, who is Eddie’s wife, said the classes are also a good way for people to make new friends.
“It’s nice to see all the new faces coming along,” said 70-year-old Margaret. “We have a cup of tea afterwards and it’s nice for people to get the chance to get together.”
l If you would like to take part in the tai chi classes, go along to Johnstone Town Hall at 11am any Tuesday.