225101 Symbolic values of Tai Chi: Voices of community-based aging practitioners

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 : 11:00 AM - 11:15 AM

Sunny Alperson, PhD , Ninr/Nihcc, NIH, Bethesda, MD
Background: The majority of Tai Chi (TC) research has demonstrated preventative benefits for the elderly. Although the popularity of TC practice among older populations has increased during the past decade, understanding of the persisting appeal of the phenomenon remains unknown. Purpose: This study investigated the experience of community-based TC practitioners with qualitative methodology. We focused on giving voice to the practitioners to discuss the role, mechanism and meanings of TC practice in their lives. Method: Semi-structured in-depth interviews with 29 self-described “committed” TC practitioners in the community were transcribed and analyzed using N-vivo software and dimensional analyses to develop a grounded theory. Most participants were Caucasians with mean age 65.5+10.1 and 1 month to 27 years of TC experience. Results: Thematic analysis illustrated that TC had multiple properties beyond physical benefits. TC practice represented numerous positive symbols such as peace, strength, nature, wholeness, connectedness with others and body mind healing. TC played a major role for their daily renewal of selves. They took pride in “staying young” and “capable” of autonomy, distinguishing themselves from those other “old” persons. TC was an integrative modality in which multiple symbolic values were built into a larger belief system of natural inner well-being and health. Conclusion: The sense of self efficacy, confidence and ability to dissociate from typical aging processes through TC helped them maintain their positive self images. The symbolic world that TC practitioners construct warrants further investigation as a potential integrative healthcare strategy for successful aging.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Public health or related education
Public health or related nursing
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Discuss the potential of Tai Chi as an integrative modality for promoting public health and well-being among older populations 2. Describe the symbolic value and appeal of Tai Chi to aging and elderly populations.

Keywords: Aging, Community Preventive Services

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Post doctoral fellow at NIH investigating Tai Chi.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.