Young and old find their flow in Fawkner Park

1 June 2023

Meet the four-year-olds and older people who do tai chi together in South Yarra once a month. They’re keeping ageism at bay.

Anticipation flutters through a group of tai chi students on a misty Thursday morning in Fawkner Park.

All eyes are on the pre-schoolers who are ambling towards them, clad in puffer jackets and beanies, ready for their first intergenerational tai chi class.

On a small platform at the front of the class, Master Han Jin Song welcomes the children as they take their place amid the grown-ups. His baby-blue silk tai chi uniform shimmers.

“We are young and old together. Choose someone to stand next to, and let’s have fun!”

Master Han leads a tai chi class

This new mood-boosting activity is organised by the City of Melbourne to foster connection between the generations, intercept ageism, reduce social isolation and celebrate healthy ageing.

Once a month, the four-year-olds will join older students under golden elms near the children’s centre, which shares a roof with the senior citizens’ centre.

Master Han has taught tai chi in Fawkner Park for more than 10 years, but this is the first time he’s hosted four-year-olds together with regular students such as retiree Teresa Poore.

“It’s lovely to be able to do something with the children,” Teresa said. She’s been studying tai chi with Master Han in Fawkner Park every week since October 2022.

“It’s like having a session with my own grandchildren. I missed them growing up, they are in the UK.”

“It’s lovely to be able to share what I know of tai chi with these young ones.”

“As we get older, living in a big city like Melbourne can be fairly isolating,” Teresa said.

“These tai chi classes are about community and friendship. And the coffee and biscuits after the class are great too!”

Tai chi student Teresa Poore in South Yarra

Rainbow lorikeets chatter in the trees above, while Master Han takes the class through a series of slow, graceful movements. Transferring energy from hand to hand.

An assortment of walking sticks, makeshift and official tai-chi sticks lean against the trees, waiting for their moment in the sequence.

Handbags, shopping bags and polar fleece tops are looped over low branches.

Kids wobble on the spot as they mimic a flying crane. Draw the imaginary bow. Row the boat. Bounce the ball.

“It takes time, but we gradually get better,“ Master Han said.

“The more we feel it, the more we want to do it. The better we become.”

An older woman dressed all in white leans over to steady the four-year-old in front of her as she tries to “bend like a banana”.

One child veers off to the sandpit. Another points out the moon above the treeline. His friend rolls down a small hill.

An older man in a deep-blue velvet tracksuit tries to draw a child’s attention back to the class.

It’s time for the four-year-olds to wander back to the Fawkner Park Children’s Centre and Kindergarten. As they walk, they reflect on the class.

“I loved learning tai chi,” one child said.

More observations spill forth: “Tai chi was good with grown-ups,” and “I liked the man that was with me,” and “I liked when I was seeing the man play tai chi.”

“I feel good.”

Until they come again next month, Master Han and his intermediate tai chi class will continue to meet every Thursday from 10am to 11am to flow together like a great river.

Afterwards, they meander back to the South Yarra Senior Citizens Centre for refreshments and a chat.

“It’s exercise, but it’s also social. At the end of the class, we sit and talk.

“I come to see all the smiling faces. It’s more reward than money,” Master Han said.

A neighbourhood Future Melbourne Committee meeting was held in South Yarra on Tuesday 13 June 2023. Watch on demand.

Golden elm in Fawkner Park

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