Urban movement gives senior crew street cred

Melbourne's mature movers pound the pavements for parkour

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Think parkour is just for teenage boys? Think again.


If you've watched parkour, you might think it's about people jumping between buildings, climbing on to high rails and ledges, performing rolls, handstands, flips and twists.

Parkour derives from military obstacle training so you mightn't associate it with older people maintaining fitness, coordination and balance.

But you'd be wrong - Melbourne in Motion is a parkour and movement coaching organisation that teaches a range of non-traditional movement disciplines.

They emphasise inclusion - you don't have to be young or fit to get started, just willing to have a go and enjoy it. A range of classes is offered, including Parkour Mature and Parkour for Kids and Families.

Kelley Glaister conducts weekly Parkour Mature classes in central Melbourne, involving moves using the urban infrastructure around Southbank. One member, Arlene Advocat, is 82 years old.

The weather on the day The Senior joined the mature class was quite inclement, and three of the four regular class members were unable to be there.

But it didn't stop Kelley and group member Marita Davidson from going through their routines.

"It's great for older people because it focuses on skills and movements that are part of everyday life. It makes people think about how they move," Kelley said.

"After coaching in Scotland, I returned to Melbourne and started working with another organisation. Then a group of friends and I decided parkour should be more accessible, so we started Melbourne in Motion.

"People feel comfortable with others who look like them and move like them, especially older people."

For Marita Davidson, physical activity is nothing new. She had been away from Melbourne for 18 years and returned after a cycling tour from the UK to Australia.

"I needed to get involved with something physical, and this enabled me to rediscover the cityscape, build strength and negotiate public space. It's an onward investment in staying physically aware," she said.

"I've connected with a nice crew of women of a similar age and older - it's fun and we have a great teacher. Trying new things at this age is essential.

Grey-haired people can be invisible, and parkour allows you to claim public space.

As we maneuvered over metal bars in a subway and danced across paving stones, up on to a stone platform and rolling back down again, it was invigorating to engage in activity while consciously thinking about using muscles and transferring weight.

"It's fun and builds confidence. You look at the built environment differently and become aware of how space is constructed and how you move through it," Marita said.

NOTE: Journalist Simon Garner took part in this class, and wrote the story, before social distancing rules were introduced. Physical classes are currently on hold, but Melbourne in Motion is running distanced online classes for some sessions. Click HERE for more information.