Senior balance, movement classes aim to prevent falls

Mordy Levine teaches a balance and movement class at the Rancho Santa Fe Library.

Rancho Santa Fe resident Mordy Levine has begun teaching balance and movement classes specifically designed for senior citizens to help reduce the risk of falling as they get older.

Classes are held 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. Starting April 7, he 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 living on the East Coast.

Throughout his career in business, he has founded and operated several companies in the technology and pharmaceutical spaces. He is also the president of the Jigme Lingpa Center in San Diego, a nonprofit that offers numerous classes and activities on the teachings of Buddha.

Levine said he wouldn’t have made it through his highly stressful business career if not for his martial arts, yoga, tai chi and meditation practice. A second-degree black belt, he recently stopped practicing martial arts but he still does daily yoga and tai chi as well as a lot of rock climbing.

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

About six months ago, Levine was motivated to teach older adults due to his experience with the seniors in his life, including his 91-year-old mother-in-law 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 the hospital, he learned more about the high threat of falls that older adults face after reaching age 65: “The stats are not good.”

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

Three million emergency department visits in 2019 were due to older adult falls and one out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury.

“I had the idea to modify my tai chi class to reduce falling because the stakes are super high,” he said. “Falls are preventable, that’s the beautiful part. My motivation is to help reduce the risk of falling for senior citizens.”

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

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

He works in basic forms of tai chi with a focus on posture, balance, muscle relaxation and breathing. In class, he also gets seniors playing games and dancing—”Learning should be fun, no matter if you’re three or 93.”

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

“I totally love it,” Levine said of teaching his new classes. “There’s just tremendous satisfaction when you see the lightness in their step when they leave class empowered, confident and feeling good.”

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