Tai chi class celebrates 30 years at the Council on Aging

Oct 4, 2017

The Council on Aging’s tai chi classes don’t usually end with cake, but October 3’s session was no ordinary day – members celebrated instructor Joe Rebelo’s birthday, and the 30th anniversary of the program.

It was in October of 1987 that Rebelo, a martial arts expert and owner of New Bedford's Rebelo's Kenpo Karate, hosted his first tai chi class at the Dartmouth Council on Aging after then-Director Norma Vaz saw one of his classes in action at the YWCA’s old headquarters building in New Bedford.

“She saw my classes and said ‘I’d love to have those at the Council on Aging,’” Rebelo said.

The rest, as Rebelo said, is history. He’s been teaching tai chi classes on a weekly basis since that initial meeting. Rebelo said the ancient Chinese health exercises can help seniors with a host of issues typical of aging, both physical and mental.

“One thing we do is chi kung – breathing exercises,” Rebelo said. “As we all get older our breathing gets shorter. Chi Kung helps improve that.”

At its peak, his classes had about 40 people at one time. With a smaller crowd of about 12 on October 3 – including newcomers testing the waters of tai chi – many already feel the health benefits of the program.

“When I first started I didn’t care for it because I’m not a slow person. It was hard for me to slow down and relax, but now I’m starting to,” said four-year member Caroline Bochman.

Lee Thomas is only in her second session so far, but she’s already feeling relaxed and comfortable.

“I’m taking it for the stress really; it helps with my arms, fibromyalgia, and stress,” Thomas said.

Rebelo’s classes are held at the Council on Aging every Tuesday at 9 a.m. and are organized into eight-week programs. The cost for an eight-week class is $30. Contact the Dartmouth Council on Aging for more information.