Imagine a room full of people with Parkinson’s disease, dancing. With the help of trained instructors, they move to the music. Swing their arms. Step in a circle.
Suddenly, something magical happens for people with a progressive movement disorder. A woman who normally can’t straighten her hand notices the stiffness go away. Some experience a burst of confidence; others a sense of community.
These older adults with Parkinson’s disease are participating in a class run by Dance for PD, a collaboration of the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Brooklyn Parkinson Group in New York City. The program offers the classes around the world to improve people’s quality of life.
“I see transformation happen in front of my eyes,” says David Leventhal, program director of Dance for PD. “People often come into the class with a lot of rigidity, and in that space they come alive.”
Leventhal will explore the benefits of Dance for PD at the Summer Institute on Mental Disorders and the Older Adult, sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Continuing Studies on July 28-29 at the UW Pyle Center. In a keynote speech and demonstration on July 29, he’ll offer new strategies for care managers, social workers, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, physicians, physicians’ assistants, speech therapists, and others who work with older adults.
“There’s so much potential to enrich people’s lives and increase their well-being,” Leventhal says. “People are happy because they’re involved in a fun, joyful activity. They’re also learning specific strategies that help them manage their movement and their thinking process.”
The Summer Institute on Mental Disorders and the Older Adult and the related certificate series, which began in 2008, are the only programs of their kind in the Midwest, providing the latest evidence-based information about geriatric mental illness. Day one of the Summer Institute offers an intensive look at late-life depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, and executive function. Day two focuses on Parkinson’s disease and Lewey Body Dementia.
“Participants will improve their skills for working with older adults and find out what’s possible in terms of improving people’s quality of life,” says Suzanna Waters Castillo, director of Aging and Long-Term Care at the Division of Continuing Studies. “They will also have an opportunity to build relationships with colleagues, including the conference’s expert teaching faculty.”
Along with David Leventhal, the nationally prominent speakers include Waters Castillo, Ph.D., M.S.S.W., a leader in inter-professional development in geriatric mental health care; Beth Fahlberg Ph.D., R.N., who directs supportive and palliative care programs at Continuing Studies; Lisa Boyle, M.D., board certified in geriatric psychiatry, director of the Geriatric Fellows Program at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health; Timothy Juergens, M.D., board certified in geriatric psychiatry, director of the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital Comprehensive Sleep Program; Terese Mangin, M.D., board certified in neurology, UW Medical School and Medical Director for the Wisconsin chapter of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association; and Art Walaszek, M.D., board certified in geriatric psychiatry, who oversees medical education in psychiatry at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.
A poetic form of therapy
Leventhal will speak on the evolution of Dance for PD and demonstrate the dance movements he uses with Parkinson’s patients. Participants will have a chance to practice the movements themselves as a way of testing their effectiveness.
“Dance for PD is a poetic form of therapy that feeds not only patients’ bodies but also their hearts and souls,” says Waters Castillo. “Leventhal will show that there’s more to helping people than simply giving them a pill to increase dopamine production in their brains, which is currently the primary treatment for Parkinson’s disease. There are alternatives that allow people to have pleasure in their lives and a reason to live.”
To learn more about Dance for PD, see the video above. For more information about the Summer Institute on Mental Disorders and the Older Adult, contact Suzanna Waters Castillo at firstname.lastname@example.org, 608-263-3174.