Originally Published: September 29, 2007 9:28 p.m.
PRESCOTT - Soothing harp music plays while a group goes through a series of synchronized motions - some graceful, some strenuous.
It is not the latest health fad. Rather, the Art of Moving, a popular class at the Wellness Center next to the Yavapai Regional Medical Center in Prescott helps Parkinson's disease patients re-gain muscle function, speech and social skills.
"We went to a Parkinson's Foundation gathering, and learned about this course. It combines training in strength, balance, communication and coordination, all the areas that Parkinson's can effect," said physical therapist Susan Connor. "We knew there was a big Parkinson's community here, and decided to bring it to northern Arizona."
The Art of Moving class, which the Wellness Center started offering in early April, is developing a loyal following.
"It's probably popular not for any single reason, but because it actually combines so many elements of recovery," said rehabilitation director Lisa Taylor. "The class incorporates Yoga, tai chi, ballet; all things that increase fluidity of movement, which is often a problem for Parkinson's patients. It also includes elements of speech therapy, and it has a strong social aspect that you have to see to understand."
The regular attendees understand and embrace the social aspect. Most of them know each other by name, as well as the instructors. They share stories about friends and family, their vacation plans, as well as their progress in combating the effects of Parkinson's disease.
"I've been coming for about six weeks now," said Douglas Hall, who attended the class on his 85th birthday. "Susan's a wonderful teacher. You're tired at the end, but you really feel like it did you some good, especially later in the week."
Hall said he felt the "marching" exercise was the most stimulating aspect of the class physically, and that the camaraderie between the patients and the instructors is the best part mentally.
"There's always a great bunch of people here and it's not like a class; it's a group of friends who get together to work on (a shared) problem," said Hall. "I'm glad to be here on my birthday."
Ursula Brown, 78, and her daughter and caretaker, Kellog Patton, 57, have been attending the class together for several months.
"It's a great social hour, for one. Oh, and we get some exercise, too," Brown joked. "It's just $3 per class, which is nothing, for what you get. I look at it as an investment in one's self, and it's a smart one, at that. I'm seeing great results."
Patton added that she benefits from the workout, as well.
"I think (her mother) can handle it better than I can, sometimes. It's really gotten me in shape," said Patton. "The instructors do a great job, and it's wonderful how it covers so much, from muscle control to speech to socializing. Parkinson's effects different people in many different ways, but this class seems to cover as many of them as possible."
More information on the Art of Moving class is available by calling 771-5131.
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