7 Ways the Arts can Help People Living with Parkinson’s
Tuesday, 9th December 2014

Painting, playing an instrument or simply dancing in your living room are all relaxing ways to express yourself. For many people with Parkinson’s, these hobbies can also help manage certain symptoms.

Our community shared how their favourites, from beading jewellery to playing the euphonium, have helped them with Parkinson’s symptoms and improved their sense of well-being.

“Get creative and try to use your Parkinson’s, rather than be limited by it,” advises Rachel Dolhun, MD, on staff movement disorder specialist at Michael J. Fox Foundation. “One of my patients loved to take photographs. Rather than giving up that hobby because her hands wouldn’t stay still, she used her tremor to her advantage and the images contained beautiful shadows and unique trails of light induced by the shaking.”

  1. Singing has been found to help people with Parkinson’s disease improve voice strength and volume.
  2. Besides being relaxing, playing an instrument, painting and other art endeavours can help people with Parkinson’s maintain motor skills.
  3. Use your craft to help raise awareness about Parkinson’s disease. Whether you’re painting a self-portrait, writing a personal essay or even penning a play, creative works can help others understand your experience better.
  4. Many people with Parkinson’s have found that dance helps improve their balance, and that moving to a rhythm helps them avoid freezing episodes. Any exercise has also been found to improve Parkinson’s symptoms such as gait and flexibility.
  5. Art isn’t limited to painting and drawing. Any engrossing activity that you enjoy can help you relax and potentially manage symptoms.
  6. Enjoying a hobby can also be a way to connect the others who have Parkinson’s, or who simply share your interests.
  7. If there’s a hobby you enjoyed that your Parkinson’s symptoms have impacted, try them again and make the most of your new ‘style’.

In this podcast, MJFF Contributing Editor Dave Iverson speaks to Leventhal and Dr. Henchcliffe about what dance offers people living with Parkinson’s.

“One of the things we experienced early on in teaching this class is that there was a certain element of transformation that happened over the course of that hour that we were together,” says Leventhal. “And the transformation had as much to do with a mindset and an identity as it did with the actual steps and skills that were being learned.”