Hastings Parkinson's Disease sufferers tango to keep feeling young and energetic

Exercise has been proven to be good for the mind and for the body, and now in its fourth year, Dancing with Parkinson’s Port Macquarie is helping those with neurological conditions stay active after diagnosis.

Organiser and long time dancer herself, Sheila MacDougall said after Parkinson’s touched her family she has been passionate about helping others.

“My father had died with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and after I came across some research about the benefits of exercise, and especially dancing, for people living with PD I knew I wanted to do something to help,” Ms MacDougall said.

“The research says the Argentine Tango, the very dance I had been dancing for over ten years, was shown to be the best choice, followed by ballet.

“So we, my partner Russell Wilkinson and I felt a strong pull to offer our experience to the Port Macquarie Parkinson’s Support Group on a voluntary basis, which was accepted with enthusiasm, and we have been going well ever since.”

The group meet for eight week blocks before a few weeks break and have people from all over the Hastings come and tango.

On March 14 the group also celebrated the fourth anniversary of the group by inviting Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker and Port Macquarie-Hastings mayor Peta Pinson to join in the festivities.

“The group was started March 11, 2014 and has been going ever since,” she said.

“We have a volunteer team of five along with Russell and I who come every week to help us run the Program and several of them are a part of other dance groups in the town, and are involved in demonstrating of steps, playing a part in helping group members to participate in the activities.”

Each week dancers from across the Hastings are greeted with fun and movement along with morning tea and opportunities to have a chat and a catch up.

“Our sessions include morning tea and time to chat and catch up, which has the added benefit of giving the carers support for each other, as they can share some of the stresses they all experience over a long period.”

Ms MacDougall said that it is wonderful to be able to see improvements in movement in those who have PD each week.

“Exercise – especially when it is enjoyable – has been shown to help lift depression and improve mood.

“Most of the group have been with us for three to four years, and they look forward to both the exercise and the social interaction from week to week.

“Friendships have formed between all of us, and it is a very happy experience for everyone.”

While in attendance at the morning of dancing, Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker also presented Ms MacDougall and Russell Wilkinson with a federal member’s award in recognition of their hard work and dedication to the community and to the group.

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