People going through various stages of Parkinson’s disease can now come together to exercise at a space where their needs are met.
On Sept. 18 the Parkinson Wellness Project (PWP) had its grand opening at 202-2680 Blanshard St., and so far the not-for-profit has attracted over 160 members.
The PWP offers fitness, yoga and boxing classes to people living with Parkinson’s (the fighters) and their partners and friends (the cornermen and cornerwomen).
“We like to always say that it’s evidence-based at its core,” said Krista Lavoie, operations manager. “When we provide fitness classes such as boxing, yoga, dance and our generic power moves classes, all of these classes have studies behind them that show, yes, movements like this that we’re incorporating potentially will help reduce symptoms from progressing.”
The idea was a vision of former Greater Victoria physiotherapist Jillian Carson who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 49. Over the past six years, she and a group of core people have run fitness classes for those with Parkinson’s at the Greenglade Community Centre in Sidney, and the Cedar Hill Rec Centre in Saanich. Thanks to an anonymous donation of $500,000 the PWP could become a functional centre of its own.
Stan Ball was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s two years ago when he noticed issues with his balance. He opted not to take medications, and instead attended some of the drop-in classes at the rec centres. Since the PWP had its soft launch in June he’s been a regular attendant.
“Since starting I’ve noticed a significant improvement in my strength and my balance,” he said, adding that it’s also helped his fine motor skills. “My mouse doesn’t wiggle so much anymore.”
Aside from gaining back some confidence in himself, Ball said that having a location where he could speak with others going through a similar experience has been very beneficial.
“People can be uncomfortable with the shaking and the movements, so when you’re with a group where it doesn’t bother them at all, it feels like home.”
Aside from the gym space, the PWP also has its “living room” where coffee is always on and the kitchen is always open.
“We just want people to know that we’re here,” said Lavoie. “There’s a community centre here for them to meet other people with Parkinson’s, for their caregivers and loved ones to do the same, and a place for them to be proactive and take care of their health by moving their bodies.”
Attendance is by donation, and volunteers are always needed. For more information, you can visit parkinsonwellnessproject.org.