John F. Kennedy had one. Whistler's mother did, too. Chances are, you have one in your home. According to the furniture czars Nick, Ron and Pete Cardi, "thousands are sold in our stores every year."
We're talking about rocking chairs-and studies suggest the humble, low-tech rocker can ease the stress and anxiety brought on by our high pressure, high-tech lives. Research has long confirmed what new mothers learn very quickly: rocking soothes babies, possibly because the motion mimics the sensation of being carried in the womb. The gentle back and forth of rocking transforms crying into cooing and magically changes a wakeful infant into one who sleeps.well, like a baby. But less has been known about rocking's effect on adults.
One recent study reveals the welcome news that rocking is as good for grandma and grandpa as it is for baby. Researchers recently conducted a study to examine the effect of rocking on nursing home residents who were suffering from dementia due to Alzheimer's disease or other causes. For six weeks, the 25 men and women rocked from 30 to 80 minutes every day. Subsequently, the rocking mechanism was disabled on the platform rockers and the result was observed.
During the first six weeks, nearly half the study group exhibited less anxiety, disorientation, tension and depression. Those who rocked 80 minutes per day showed the most dramatic difference, requesting pain medication less often and having fewer episodes of anxiety and depression. Researchers noted that those who achieved the greatest benefit were those who rocked for the longest amount of time over the course of the day, not necessarily during one sitting. They also noticed that when emotionally distraught residents were helped into rocking chairs and began rocking, the motion immediately calmed them.
An additional benefit was observed: rocking improved the balance of the study group, possibly because the rocking motion helps stimulate the body's ability to maintain balance.
Though researchers have not documented rocking's effect on adults in mid-life, evidence suggests that it must be as soothing for baby boomers as it is for their parents and children. Demand for rocking chairs has soared during the past few decades, and the plain wooden rocker has diversified to suit the tastes of both the chic set and couch potatoes, in the process spawning a whole category of furniture. "We don't sell as many of the old-fashioned maple Boston rockers as we did in the past," says Nick Cardi, "but we do sell a lot of Shaker-style and painted rockers, and in upholstered furniture, swivel rockers and glider rockers. Twenty years ago we had five or six different styles and now we're all over the place."
The Cardi brothers conclude, "The population is rocking."