Having Some Fun with Programs for Parkinson’s Disease

We help the entire Parkinson’s community explore, understand and share their stories using evidence-based research. Your story matters.

Robert Cochrane, PhD

Thank you for all of your comments about my last blog post. As I continue on this journey with Parkinson’s Disease, I have found that the best thing I can do for me is to not think of myself as a person with a progressive degenerative neurological disease, but as someone who still has a lot of life to live.

With that in mind, here are two fun programs I have discovered in the last year. Both of them have received community grants from the Parkinson’s Foundation and are looking to expand to other communities in the near future.

Ping Pong for Good

Photo by Maureen McComsey

First, there is Ping Pong for Good. Founded by Trent MacLean who has Parkinson’s and his friend, Maureen McComsey, Ping Pong for Good has been developing a program utilizing ping pong to optimize brain and body health, especially for people with Parkinson’s. One of the unique things about this program is that partners can join in the fun and benefit too! Several couples form our class meet at the local college to play on Sundays too.  The best part of this is it brings back memories of playing Ping Pong in the basement of my house growing up. Somehow, I remember that ping pong table being bigger. Or maybe my memory is just bad.

We start each session with specific exercises which are good for our brains and our bodies. We warm up by doing things like tossing the ball up and down in our non-dominant hand 10 times without dropping it on the table or balancing the ball as long as possible on our paddle. Then we are ready to play ping pong. But when we play we have to follow whatever rules the instructors give us that night. Hit only back hands, count to 20, or maybe backwards by 3’s. These become cognitive exercises, which we hope will repair some of the pathways in our brains. Most of all, we have fun. There is a lot of laughter in the room along with the dopamine rushes.

Ping Pong for Good is looking to expand their programs in other cities. If you are interested in bringing it to your community, get in touch with Maureen at maureen@pingpongforgood.org

Yes, And…eXercise

The second program, which I just learned about last month, is Yes, And…eXercise . Robert Cochrane, PhD is the CEO & Founder. He has a background as a filmmaker and performer in Los Angeles. When his father was diagnosed with PD in 2001, he shifted gears. First he made the award-winning documentary series, Boys of Summer about his father’s experiences with PD. Later, he went back to school to research the effect of improvisation and storytelling on Parkinson’s disease. He recently earned his doctoral degree from UNLV’s Integrated Health Sciences department.

Robert founded YAX with Susan Scarlett, who was diagnosed with PD in 2015. She officially calls herself the “First Follower”, having participated in Robert’s classes since the beginning of his PhD studies. The studies eventually showed that these novel programs could improve quality of life measures for PWP, including confidence, creativity, and communication. They are currently running one hour classes online twice a week. The classes are a mix of large and small group exercises and a lot of laughter. There are a lot of storytelling opportunities as well as improv games, which require quick thinking, often with very funny outcomes. We have fun as we create together, “yes, anding” great things others have done and spinning gold out of things some might fear as mistakes. Most importantly we learn that There are no right or wrong answers in improvisation.

Robert with his father at the Disneyworld Marathon

Robert and Susan are also hoping to expand their programs to other communities with live classes. If you are interested, please contact Robert at yesandexercise@gmail.com

I have found that both of these programs are a lot of fun and a great place to meet other people with Parkinson’s. Loneliness is not allowed and laughter is required, which can only lead to an improved quality of life for those of us with Parkinson’s.

Have a great week


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A Note To My Readers

I love to see your comments and get your emails as we share our collective experiences. But based on a couple of private questions from some of you, remember, I am just a lay person and a patient like the rest of you. For medical and similar advice, you need to talk to your own doctor

Twitchy Woman

Twitchy Women partners with the Parkinson’s Wellness Fund to ensure we have the resources to offer peer support for women with Parkinson’s.