LIVERPOOL, N.Y. (NCC News) — A 66, 72 and 78 year old. All boxing with their friends. What do they have in common? They all have Parkinson’s disease. At Empower Parkinson in Liverpool, they’re finding a way to fight back.
“Sometimes we’ll do stations, sometimes everybody will do the same thing at the same time,” licensed physical therapist Patrick Van Beveren said. “But it’s always a combination of some boxing and some kind of exercise.”
Van Beveren has been the owner of the gym for six years now. He says boxing workouts like these demand so much out of people with this disease.
“Strength, power, agility, coordination, it challenges all of those things that Parkinson’s trying to take away. Intensity, that’s the role that coaches play yelling at people to hit it harder, move more quickly, trying to overload those motions,” Van Beveren said. “Make them do more than what they’re normally used to doing. And that’s also a group effect. If you’re in this group and you look over and he’s doing better than you that’s stimulation for you: ‘if he can do it I can do it’ type of thing.”
Along with the intense workouts that Van Beveren puts everyone through, there’s a patient in particular that says it’s the friendships and community that make her experience worth it.
“The thing that is happened is we’ve made a lot of friends,” 78-year-old Kathy Schwanke said. “I don’t mean just friends but people you can share your most feelings with. People understand – they understand they’re in the same boat as we all are.”
Van Beveren agrees that the familial aspects of Empower Parkinson is what makes things so special.
“All of these people have become friends of mine. There is a closeness and we talk about community but to see them closer than that it’s like family and we know them and we get to know them – they bring their kids in sometimes – we know their problems so I really enjoy that part,” Van Beveren said.