Deptford seniors take on Tai Chi

Senior citizens are taking advantage of what the Township has to offer, and it's not the typical bingo night.

Morris Siegel, a certified Tai Chi for Arthritis instructor, teaches a Tai Chi class on Aug. 19 in the Deptford Senior Center. This class is one of the many activities that seniors are taking advantage of in the town.

Deptford resident Randy Smith had seen the Tai Chi classes advertised for years, but it wasn’t until his grandkids were taking karate lessons that he decided to join. 

He is one of more than a dozen senior citizens moving in unison with one another during a class on Monday, Aug. 19 in the Deptford Township’s Senior Center. The martial art exercises the balance between yin and yang and is based on the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism, according to the Tai Chi for Health Institute website. 

“This is just a great way to start the day,” said Smith. 

Morris Siegel, the class instructor, has been teaching Tai Chi for almost 20 years. He uses his knowledge to help people with fibromyalgia, training them in different Tai Chi forms, as well as classes for residents in assisted-living facilities, while also teaching specialized classes for people with Parkinson’s Disease and arthritis, according to his website. 

Smith enjoys the fact that the practice can help with arthritis, unlike karate, which can be too physical, according to him. He takes the class in the senior center all through winter into late spring, until he goes back to work. Smith has been going long enough now that he started taking extra classes at Royal Fitness in Barrington instructed by Siegel. 

The class at the senior center is for any skill level, says Siegel. The group is made up of many retired residents, such as James Ennis, who appreciates that the town gives seniors the opportunities to stay active. 

“It means a lot to care for their seniors enough to offer these activities,” said Ennis, who has been doing Tai Chi for over two years. 

The class is one of the many activities and events that Deptford provides to seniors throughout the year. 

Sponsored by the town’s mayor and council, events such as pickleball and bingo are available all year. Pickleball is one activity that has been growing in popularity since it started only a few years ago, says Mayor Paul Medany. 

“We provide all these recreational activities to kids, why aren’t we providing some opportunities to our seniors to keep them healthy and active?” said Medany. 

Medany says he and his other colleagues in the township have a background of coaching in local youth sports, and they wanted to expand that to the senior population.

With some seniors being on fixed incomes after retirement, according to Medany, they might not get the chance to enjoy a night on the town. That’s why the township provides a lunch twice a year at Auletto Caterers, which attracts more than 300 seniors.

“It’s a little gift we give back to our senior citizens,” said Medany.

Deptford has other activities too, like a Phillies Game Day, where folks gather to watch the afternoon games at the senior center with hot dogs and popcorn. 

For more information on events, activities and how to sign up, visit the township website at deptford-nj.org, or contact the Parks and Recreation Department via email at deptfordparksandrec@deptford-nj.org or call (856) 845-0804.