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Parkinson’s patients find empowerment

Diagnosed with a chronic illness like Parkinson’s disease, individuals can often feel helpless in facing an illness that has no cure.
Area businesses, however, are helping to empower patients with Parkinson’s disease by providing ways to combat its effects and feel connected to others while doing so.

Organizations such as Rock Steady Boxing Inc.’s Rochester branch, Roc Boxing & Fitness Center and Rochester Accessible Adventures Inc. are offering those diagnosed with Parkinson’s a chance to take charge of their own health.

Rock Steady Boxing Inc.
Lindsay Jackson and Jennifer Schlegel co-founded a Rock Steady Boxing location in Rochester last November. Rock Steady Boxing is a nonprofit founded in 2006 in Indiana that has locations throughout the country.

“We’ve seen incredible improvements,” Jackson said. “I’m reassessing one lady who can’t wait to go back to her neurologist appointment. She can’t wait to go back this month because she feels she has actual progress to show.”

As a physical therapist, Jackson was inspired by one of her patients to launch the national program locally, she said. Schlegel’s grandmother had Parkinson’s disease, which also prompted the duo to get involved.

“Our program incorporates a lot more balance, we do a lot more fine motor skills, and dexterity work,” Jackson said. “We do voice activation to help combat the soft voice, we do memory work, and I think those are things that you would not find in a typical exercise program.”
Rock Steady Boxing offers classes every day except Sundays and has roughly two dozen people on their roster.

“I think the biggest surprise, and it’s a good surprise, is how hard our boxers work and how dedicated they are,” Jackson said.  “I think people are recognizing more and more that exercise is an essential part of treatment—as essential as medication, really.”

Roc Boxing & Fitness Center
Roc Boxing & Fitness Center also offers boxing classes specifically for those living with Parkinson’s disease. The company is owned by Dom Arioli.

“I’m really enjoying working with these individuals because I can see the benefit they’re getting from what we do at Roc Boxing,” he said. “Boxing is good for any individual who might want to increase their range of movement that might have slowed down from getting older.

“I’m seeing some really good results from class to class. It’s not going to cure the disease, but it makes them feel good physically for that day,” he added.

Some 35 people with Parkinson’s disease attend Arioli’s boxing classes.

“It’s a group that became very close to my heart,” he said. “I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Muhammad Ali when they first diagnosed that he had Parkinson’s, and it was a real moving experience for me. With his passing, this was something I could do to give back more or less in his honor.”

Rochester Accessible Adventures Inc.
Rochester Accessible Adventures, a nonprofit that finds ways for people with disabilities to enjoy recreation with others, joined the National Parkinson’s Foundation Greater Rochester Wellness Committee last year to understand how to support those with Parkinson’s disease here.

There are many ways to help anyone with a disease or disability to feel included, said Anita O’Brien, a certified therapeutic recreation specialist and executive director of Rochester Accessible Adventures.

“Our goal is to create a pathway to wellness” through recreation for people with Parkinson’s, she said. The group seeks “to introduce families to inclusive recreation opportunities, such as kayaking and cycling through Erie Canal Boat Co. and inclusive pickleball through Pickled Power, so that they may continue to participate in these activities throughout the year.”

The organization has supported those with the disease by holding a cycling clinic and a pickleball clinic for 15 people with the disease and their caregivers.

Businesses leaders should think about ways to make their organizations more inclusive to all, O’Brien said.

“Our community is very diverse in many ways, and when physical mobility is considered it is important for businesses to reflect on their own operations, front-end to back-end delivery systems, and assess whether those processes can be accessed by a variety of people,” she said.

“Businesses are encouraged to connect with entities like RAA and (National Parkinson’s Foundation Greater Rochester) to receive help in assessing how well they are meeting the needs of individuals with PD and to better understand national best practices that can enhance how they deliver their business services,” O’Brien said.

The goal is to help those with PD live fulfilling lives in the community, Rock Steady Boxing’s Jackson said.

“Our main goal is to keep people with Parkinson’s as active and as integrated in the community as possible,” she said.

3/24/2017 (c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-363-7269 or email madams@bridgetowermedia.com.

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