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Inter-generational Qigong program a hit with Somerville seniors and kids

Posted by Marcia Dick  January 31, 2013 09:06 AM

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The “Lion Face Song” video.

The laughter you hear coming from children and adults at the Somerville Council on Aging is just one of the happy outcomes of an inter-generational Qigong program being offered to Somerville seniors and to kindergartners from Tufts University’s Educational Day Care Center.

Lisa Doyle, music therapist, singer-songwriter, and program designer, has for over a year been leading a group of seniors in weekly Qigong classes.  Qigong is an ancient Chinese system of exercise for staying healthy based on the idea that moving energy or chi throughout the body fosters physical and mental well-being.

Lisa, along with her siblings Mark and Amy, has recently released a children’s CD entitled “Lion Face Song,” available at 3dband.net. The CD draws upon Qigong, yoga, and movement exercise to help children to develop concentration and coordination and to foster healthy emotional expression.

Lisa, noting that the classes for both the seniors and kindergartners were located at 167 Holland St., proposed bringing the two groups together as partners to learn Qigong exercises adapted to music. The program supports Michael Curtatone’s Mayor’s Health Initiative.  

The seniors expressed an interest and willingness to engage in this novel program with the kindergartners whose teachers also expressed enthusiastic support. The program was piloted in four sessions in 2012 and begins it’s new eight-session offering in February.

Since the program is directed to building a personal relationship between the seniors and children as well as a knowledge of Qigong practice, the seniors greet the children as they enter the room, choose a partner, and engage in a brief introductory conversation about their current interests and feelings before gathering in a circle.  The first Qigong exercise, presented in a song entitled “Shake,” is directed to enhancing circulation and concentration while elevating energy and mood.

Lyrics from the song include the following:

Shake out the mean that makes you feel mad.

Shake out the hurt that makes you feel sad.

Shake out the shy that won’t let you play.

Shake out the cry trying hard to escape.

Lisa sings the song with her guitar for the first practice of the exercise while the seniors and children shake their bodies following the lyric directions.  After a second round of moving to the music, each senior and the paired child discuss how their feelings have been affected by the Shake exercise.  Each pair is introduced to the Chinese symbol for Chi (energy), through a handout which the child colors in while the pair continues to converse. 

Under the Chinese symbol, the children are invited to draw themselves doing the Shake exercise or another activity that moves their energy while they continue to talk to their senior partner.

The piloted program, assessed informally, received strong support.  Students reported, “liking the activity,” and “wanting to do it again.”  Seniors reported “having enjoyed the activity,” “wanting to participate again with a new group,” and “feeling energized and happy after working with the children.”  One said, "Before the class I felt tired from errands and walking and after I had a smile on my face.” Another commented “I enjoyed the interaction especially since I don’t have grandchildren.”

This year’s eight-session program will begin in February, at the Somerville Council on Aging, 167 Holland St.

If you want to shake off the winter doldrums and you cannot attend Somerville Inter-generational Qigong Program, go to 3dband.net where you will hear Shake and other songs that combine Qigong, yoga, and movement exercises with world music rhythms. 

Parents looking for fresh activities to engage their children at home during February vacation will be delighted to find a kid-grabbing claymation of the title song Lion Face along with user-friendly lesson plans for each of the songs. 

Lisa can be reached at doylelisa@comcast.net.

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