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Nov 9 - Dec 31, 2023

SPOTLIGHT: Power Over Parkinsons

Class Action

Power Over Parkinson’s uses exercise programs to slow the progression of a debilitating disease.

By Dave Faries

The facts about Parkinson’s disease are grim. First of all, there is no known cure. And the cocktail of symptoms differ from one person to the next. The neurodegenerative disorder also directly affects millions of families. With some 60,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the U.S., Parkinson’s is now second only to Alzheimer’s in its prevalence.

Yet there is a glimmer of hope, and that’s where Power Over Parkinson’s comes in. “The only thing proven to slow the progression of Parkinson’s is exercise,” explains Terrill Dahl, who was a caregiver for her late husband Roger, who battled Parkinson’s for two decades. “I can tell you from personal experience it is a cruel, cruel disease,” Dahl says.

Power Over Parkinson’s established an exercise studio in 2017, offering classes suited to the needs of each individual. Instructors focus on balance, strength and mobility. But it also provides something more. “The studio became a focal point of joy for my husband and me,” says Dahl, who joined the organization’s board of directors. “I’m on the board because I believe so earnestly in the mission of Power Over Parkinson’s. It’s as simple as that.”

The mission is to improve the quality of life for those suffering from Parkinson’s—along with their families—through a tailored program of exercise, wellness, education and community. This curriculum is the core of the nonprofit’s Big Idea, but Power Over Parkinson’s is also intent on expanding its reach. They plan to increase the number of instructors and classes in an effort to bring membership to 100 and more.

They estimate that at least 1,500 area residents are fighting Parkinson’s.

Clinical adviser Dr. Maria Bellumori is a Parkinson’s researcher and CSU Monterey Bay kinesiology professor who developed exercise programs specific to the disorder. Her work has shown that such programs improve coordination and help patients better cope with the symptoms.

Courses at Power Over Parkinson’s are offered six days a week. They range from tai chi to dance, stretching and pilates—and not all involve physical activity. There are also speech therapy sessions. “We are hoping to provide a place where people can do something that helps,” Dahl says.