There are many reasons why attending Ping Pong Parkinson sessions are important for PwP (people with Parkinson’s Disease). We have been emphasizing our targeting motor symptoms (stiffness, slowness, tremors, balance) with our eclectic mix of physical activities (ping pong, juggling, various exercises). But let us not forget that Parkinson’s is a non-motor disease as well as a motor disease, and that there are distressing comorbid neuropsychiatric complications (depression, hallucinations, panic attacks, apathy, anxiety, compulsive behaviors, cognitive decline, psychosis). For PwP, these non-motor conditions can be even more difficult to deal with than the movement problems – and they are fairly common. For example, the National Institute of Health has estimated that between 40-50% of patients with PD suffer from “clinically significant depressive disturbances” (from an article published in 2013). In the journal “Parkinson’s Disease,” they published a prevalence range that on the upper limit approached an unnerving 90%! (but with an average of 35%).
But there are other matters which are more obscure, and which don’t necessarily show up on the statistic pages and they, too, deserve our attention. Let’s take the more abstract idea of loneliness, for example. People who are socially isolated (PwP and anybody else) actually endure a ‘painful’ existence. There have been scans (PET scans) which show that pain sensitive areas of the brain light up in these lonely people and for those who are depressed. It is probable that the arrows of causation are reciprocal with these two conditions – that depression may lead to social isolation, and the converse, that loneliness (isolation) may lead to depression. Research also keeps reminding us that these conditions are not just confined to the emotional realm, that they lead to physical deterioration. When a person is stressed, his/her health worsens, relating to immunity and other biochemical changes. Health and quality of life decline.
So, what to do. Remember the movie the Shawshank Redemption? Remember this line? “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living, or get busy dying.” Those are the words of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) delivered to his friend Red (Morgan Freeman). The meaning is really simple. It means do something, bunky! Our weekly sessions may not be enough, but meeting people and engaging in physical activity is certainly a good start for body and mind.
Oh, and I almost forgot, get a dog. Lao Du