By Erin Smith
Information Advisory Committe (IAC) Chair
Full disclosure: Adela Crum is this writer’s Aunt.
Adela Crum is a native Californian who comes to us from East Los Angeles, her home base when she wasn’t on the road traveling as a Travel Guide and Tour Operator for over 20 years. Adela worked for a company out of England in which she would organize 7 - 14 day trips across the United States and beyond, prior to retiring in 2010. Adela moved to Sun City Shadow Hills in August 2017, after the passing of her only brother whom she cared for the last 6 years of his life as he battled Parkinson’s Disease. When she came to live with us – (her nieces Erin and Julie), Adela was exhausted, grief-stricken, undernourished and over-weight and in desperate need of some TLC of her own. She had completely given over her life to caring for her sick brother while neglecting her own health and wellbeing.
She moved to the desert at our request/insistence, but she was scared and nervous about this complete change in her life. The great unknown was stressful, the landscape was different, the people were different, she’d say, “Why are these people waving at me, they don’t know me?” But worst of all, moving in during August, the weather was hotter than…well, you know! The whole thing was out of her control and she was scared and nervous about her future. Those first few weeks we actually wondered if she would be able to bounce back emotionally, physically and spiritually, or if we would be burying her soon. She had a few falls early on because her balance was so off, she would often get confused easily and she wasn’t feeling joyful about her move.
We knew it would be important to get her involved early on if we were to make this a successful transition. At our request, she attended a Tai Chi class at the Santa Rosa Clubhouse which she only agreed to because of a Tony Robbins advertisement she had once seen on TV. She agreed to give it a try, once! If you knew Adela, you would know she doesn’t do anything if she doesn’t want to. So, we agreed we wouldn’t push her too hard to come back. Thankfully her new doctors were VERY encouraging about her attending Tai Chi and advised her on the many health benefits she may experience.
I attended those first couple of classes with her and witnessed her interest peak from class to class. It was challenging, she couldn’t do some of the moves very well, her balance was horrible, her body was stiff and I worried she might give up. There were some rocky moments, like when the instructor asked her to take her shoes and socks off. He joked about hiding her toes from him because she must have those “funky high heel toes that are all squished up”. She did not like being made fun of and she promptly let him know that she was not going to stand for any of that. (She has great feet, by the way, and she now understands the balance issue he was trying to encourage her to work on and no longer has a problem going barefoot for class.)
Adela attended Tai Chi religiously every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and practiced at home between classes. Slowly she began to make the connection between her mind (mood), body (aches and pains) and soul (Spirit) and we began to see a significant transformation in her. Her mood was better, her health was improving, she wasn’t falling as much. She began walking every day and started eating healthier, too. Encouraged by what we were seeing, we bought her a Fitbit for Christmas and she took that device and began to compete with herself! First, she aimed for 3,000 steps in a day, then up to 5,000 steps, then soon she was walking the entire neighborhood -- occasionally getting lost and having to ask for directions back home. She’s now regularly tracking 12-15,000 steps 5 times a week and she’s lost over 45 pounds!
Adela has now become somewhat of a poster child for Tai Chi and for seniors taking control of their own destiny. I recently took her to the dentist where I watched her go into a meditative state where she calmed her anxiety through her breathing and was able to endure a painful procedure with very little fuss. This is all a testament to what she has learned in her Tai Chi class.
Adela moved to SCSH to live out her last days with us, but now she is LIVING a very full life with vitality and constantly challenging herself to learn new activities. Her latest endeavor is learning to play the piano. Adela doesn’t mind me sharing that she is now 81 years old, because when asked how old she feels, she answers with a smile, “I feel 35”! She says age is only a number and through her practice of Tai Chi, eating a healthy diet, walking and with God’s help, she plans to live to 100!
* If you are interested in finding out if Tai Chi can benefit you, too, please attend the TAI CHI QIGONG Symposium on April 6 from 10:30 am – 12:00 noon in the Montecito Fitness Group Exercise room. Free to ALL first-time participants! For more information, flyers are available at both fitness centers.
Residents are encouraged to suggest candidates for the Sun City Shadow Hills website’s Human Interest stories. The Information Advisory Committee is inclusive for all residents in Shadow Hills. You may make your suggestions directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.