Dance class aims to help those living with Parkinson’s Disease

Nearly 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, a nervous system disorder, every year.

As it turns out, a dose of dance could be just the medicine these patients need.

Claire and Pete Connolly have been in step since the very beginning.

“We met at a dance and spent our whole life, that was our social life, ” Claire Connolly, 81, said.

Dancing gave them so much joy, but it also uncovered a very difficult diagnosis.

“We were doing a foxtrot and he kept saying, ‘I can’t get that little foxtrot step in there’ and I said ‘Why I wonder, what’s wrong?'” she said.

They then discovered Pete Connolly had Parkinson’s Disease, a debilitating nervous system disease that affects movement.

Detected more than 15 years ago, it seemed their dancing days were over.

Then, they heard about a “Parkinson’s Dance.”

“We’re all about doing,” Nancy Mazonson, of Jewish Family and Children’s Services Parkinson’s Support, said. “So I thought, ‘What can these people do that will also provide a sense of connection and community?'”

An occupational therapist working for Jewish Family and Children’s Service, Mazonson helped launch one of the first in the country “therapeutic movement classes” for people living with Parkinson’s and those who love and care for them.

“When I walked in the door I knew it was the right place and that has never changed,” Gilber Aliber, who is living with the disease, said.

Aliber was among the first participants seven years ago.

The program has now swelled to include about 40 people that meet once a week and don’t miss a session.

While there is no scientific proof that dance stops the progression of Parkinson’s, doctors say it can improve mobility and balance.

“It’s not just about exercise, it’s about solidarity and mutual support,” Joseph Mayer, who is living with the disease, said.

Through it, participants said they do feel better.

On the dance floor, Claire Connolly’s partner has returned to her.

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