Seniors: Parkour for older adults helps seniors gain confidence, balance

Parkour for seniors can help improve balance and prevent falls. (Courtesy Photo)

By Jean Lam

Parkour. The word conjures up images of young guys leaping from rooftop to rooftop. With that picture, the term “senior parkour” might seem like an oxymoron.

PK Silver coaches encourage their students to think of safe and fun
ways to use obstacles. (Courtesy Photo)

But at its essence, parkour is about traversing obstacles as efficiently and fluidly as possible. By that definition, parkour can be appropriate for everyone, especially those who are older.

The fear of falling limits people. If they are afraid they might fall climbing stairs, they stay on one floor. If the curb is scary, they stay on flat surfaces. If they are afraid they might fall while walking, they use walkers or wheelchairs. The more people limit their movements, the smaller their world becomes.

PK Move, an Alexandria based nonprofit, has tackled this problem with its PK Silver program, a fitness and falls prevention program that is based in parkour movement and philosophy. Designed by professionals with backgrounds in fitness, exercise science and senior populations, PK Silver uses fun and effective movement to teach older adults to traverse their environment confidently and creatively.

Coach Jean Lam leads a PK Silver class. (Courtesy Photo)

One of the major tenets of parkour is “be strong to be useful.” Doing parkour at any level helps people maintain or regain their strength. PK Silver helps older adults gain confidence and balance to help minimize the risk of falling, instead of teaching them how to fall – which is often done in parkour.

Recently, Alexei Wong of Marymount University conducted a study that showed PK Silver is a safe and effective falls prevention program that builds strength and develops cardiovascular fitness.

Program participants say PK Silver is fun. Classes take place outside, weather permitting, which allows students to enjoy the sun, nature and fresh air. Coaches also emphasize social activity and making new friends.

Two PK Silver students work on their balance. (Courtesy Photo)

Participants are challenged to be creative and think of safe and fun ways to use obstacles, using prepositions such as “above,” “below,” “around,” “between” and “in,” and adverbs such as “quickly,” “slowly,” “sneakily” and “quietly.” There is no wrong way to parkour as long as it’s not dangerous – and there’s no jumping from rooftop to rooftop involved.

The student-centered classes introduce a new method of working out where students can create their own experiences, and no two runs are the same.

Wong was invited to present his study at the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting in Orlando, Florida this year. Some of the PK Move board also attended and operated a booth, sponsored by Core Wellness & Physical Therapy, Well Ray, Chrysalis Chiropractic, Brianna’s Blissful Bites, Del Ray Psych and Wellness and Del Ray Business Association. The event was successful, and the PK Move team was able to spark interest for the PK Silver program and make connections with major corporations and universities.

PK Silver classes are held outdoors, which allows students to enjoy the sun, nature and fresh air. (Courtesy Photo)

In addition, PK Silver has captured media attention. Recently, the staff was interviewed on parkour podcast Movers Mindset, which has interviewed icons such as Sebastian Foucan, who did the infamous parkour running scene in “Casino Royale.” In addition, Vice News spent a week filming the PK Silver crew for a video that’s already gotten more than 1.3 million views on Facebook and more than 167,000 views on YouTube.

Other than regular classes at Fort Ward on Wednesdays at 10 a.m. and ongoing classes at Charles Huston Recreation Center, PK Move is involved in several community projects, including the Walk to Bust Breast Cancer, Del Ray’s Well Ray and the Lorton Community Action Center’s children summer program.

PK Move supports the community and is also supported by the community and its various business. With the help of the Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities, Running Brooke, Del Ray Business Association and Monarca in Flight, PK Move is able to reach different communities and teach classes to various groups, empowering people to “be strong to be useful.”

Jean Lam is co-founder and vice president of PK Move.