Improving Parkinson's with Improv
If you have Parkinson's (PD), or know someone who does - a friend, family or someone you serve, work or associate with - you know the disease is sticky; in other words, it affects more than just the person who is diagnosed.
As my dad has been diagnosed with PD for 18 years, I know the feeling of being a care partner very well - though I didn't even think of myself as one until it was pointed out to me at one of our screenings for Second Base. Colleen Fischer of the Parkinson Foundation told me during the Q&A that the film should be required viewing for Care Partners because of the way my dad and I engaged in the film.
What came up, literally, in Second Base was the value of improvisation as a skill set for dealing with Parkinson's. Improvisation is proven to improve listening, communication and empathy. In fact, a study by Northwestern University and The Second City showed a number of positive effects of improvisation upon PD.
The name of that article says a lot: Laughter is the best medicine. Perception is, so often, reality. Our realities are focused sharply by the way we look at things. Laughter, the frequent byproduct of improvisation, because of how it is played, has tangible health and humanizing benefits.
Improvisation does much more than that. It reminds us to be in the moment, connected to someone else and even vulnerable. In that mode, we present and see in others, qualities we often keep hidden out of shame or fear in every day life. Anxieties are lowered. Breathing is deeper. We become more fully human and capable through its regular practice.
This is why I'm working with ComedySportz and communities across the U.S. this summer to share this modality for People with Parkinson's (PWP), care partners, as well as health and fitness providers in the community. Parkinson's is a difficult, chronic illness that can, if left to its own devices, eat you up, as we were warned by John Trudeau during our original Boys of Summer trip in 2004. It is low-cost, non-medical, high impact work that can have a lasting, positive effect to help communities come together and live their best lives.
I look forward to seeing you at one of our events - and if we're not schedule near you, please drop me a line to see if we can make it happen.