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Tai chi the key to health and happiness for Bill

Fairways Bill Sanders Tai Chi class.jpg

12 October 2020

While meditation practice and yoga have become trendy among the younger generation, Bill Sanders and the seniors he instructs in tai chi twice weekly are living proof that you don’t need to be a young social media influencer to take up the practice and reap the mindful benefits.

In fact, having practiced tai chi since 2005, and now having taught it for 11 years, Bill could probably give the younger generation some decent pointers – but that’s not what drives him.

At almost 82 years of age Bill is passionate about serving his community, supporting seniors like him to stay engaged, in good health and with a thriving social life.

“Looking after my health is very important to me,” he says. “It’s the reason my wife and I do tai chi – and it’s a good social activity as well as good for our health because we can go out as a group or gather for morning tea after classes.”

Bill volunteers teaching tai chi, and the even more gentle shibashi flow exercises at both his home at Bolton Clarke’s Fairways retirement village and for the ‘U3A’ – the University of the Third Age, which supports seniors in Bundaberg to learn new skills and take classes including technology, self-defense, arts and history.

“You’re never too old to learn something new,” Bill says.

“Shibashi is a gentle, standing form of tai chi. You move around a bit less. It’s what we practice on Saturday mornings in our class at Fairways. It’s great for anyone who might have limited mobility and is great for breathing and balance. It’s a very relaxing way to exercise – which is extremely helpful for all of us right now!”

Bill says the exercise form becomes meditative because focusing on the movements helps to quieten your mind – and he says that’s been helpful during the health crisis both for he and his wife and the people he instructs.

“I’ve made lots of new friends as a result because new people come to the classes all the time. It gets people out of their homes and out of themselves.”

It was a natural progression for Bill from personal practice to teacher, and when he and his wife Mary moved into Fairways retirement village two years ago, it seemed only natural to start sharing his knowledge with his new neighbours.

“We’ve always liked it here. Mary’s mother lived in the residential aged care community for three and a half years, so we were familiar with that side, and with the village. When we looked at moving, it seemed the perfect choice.”

Bill says they liked the fact the aged care community is right on their doorstep if they need it.

“It’s nice to have the option, in case anything happens. Because you can be sure that if you didn’t have it – you’d need it!

“In the meantime, we’ve got plenty of support close at hand, including a cleaning lady, allied healthcare team and of course all our neighbours – we look after each other. There’s a great community mindset in the village.

Bill says village life feels very safe.

“It’s the general spirit of life here. We haven’t had any problems, it’s a safe place, with a good community aspect – everything you need is here; from a pool table, to a recreation hall – and of course, tai chi.”