Parkinson’s symposium draws hundreds to Seascape Resort

SANTA CRUZ — The Santa Cruz County Parkinson’s Group hosted its fourth symposium about Parkinson’s Disease on Saturday at the Seascape Golf Club’s Monarch Room with the theme, “gratitude with optimism and resilience.”

“It comes from Michael J. Fox,” said Julie Lorraine, president of nonprofit EASE PD, which encompasses the Santa Cruz County Parkinson’s Group “He says where there is gratitude, optimism is sustainable.”

Parkinson’s disease is an age-related neurodegenerative disorder that affects the nervous system and causes symptoms such as tremors, impaired balance, speech changes and others.

Taiko drummers perform at the Symposium for Parkinson's Diseaee as the act of drumming is beneficial to those who suffer from the condition. (Aric Sleeper/Santa Cruz Sentinel)
Taiko drummers perform at the Symposium for Parkinson’s Diseaee as the act of drumming is beneficial to those who suffer from the condition. (Aric Sleeper/Santa Cruz Sentinel)

The Symposium on Parkinson’s Disease Saturday drew hundreds of community members from Santa Cruz County and the greater Bay Area and served as a venue for those affected by the disease, whether directly or indirectly, to commiserate and learn about the present and future of treatment options and also pick up a few dance moves as one of the most effective treatments for the disease is exercise.

“There is recent data that shows that aerobic exercise not only staves off the progression of Parkinson’s but reverses it,” said presenter and movement disorder specialist Peter Lin at the symposium Saturday. Lin spoke to the progression of the disease, which is currently only treatable and not curable, and said that with many new studies on the disease happening currently, hope is on the horizon for those suffering from Parkinson’s.

“The future of Parkinson’s therapies is very bright,” said Lin.

After Lin’s talk, Molly Katzman from Motion Pacific Dance in Santa Cruz led the attendees in a few dance exercises taken from Katzman’s weekly Dance for PD class.

“Recently, I’ve found myself moved to tears teaching this class,” said Katzman. “The way that I like to move and witness movement isn’t about what the person is doing but how they’re feeling when they’re doing it. There’s a vulnerability inside of that and I find that when I teach these classes there’s so much heartfelt vulnerability. The ability to be in that space with people is so fulfilling.”

Following the Dance for PD demonstration, author of “Winter Stars, An Elderly Mother, An Aging Son and Life’s Final Journey,” Dave Iverson, spoke to his experiences as a cargeiver for his mother who suffered from Parkinson’s Disease and lived to be 105 years old.

“We face an elder care crisis in this country and it is a surprisingly quiet crisis,” said Iverson during his presentation. “It’s a quiet crisis even though, according to AARP, there are 54 million family caregivers in the United States and yet this current crisis doesn’t prompt action. It mostly prompts avoidance.”

After Iverson’s talk, attendees were encouraged to check out the various exhibitors at the symposium such as Donna Gow with Medtronic, who discussed the latest breakthroughs in deep brain stimulation therapy and Karen Nauenberg who oversees movement programs at Dominican Hospital that benefit Parkinson’s patients.

  • Dancing and movement are very beneficial for those suffering from...

    Dancing and movement are very beneficial for those suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. Here a dance performer lobs an imaginary ball to another in a demonstration at the 2024 Parkinson’s Disease symposium. (Aric Sleeper/Santa Cruz Sentinel)

  • Bay Area author Dave Iverson spoke about his experiences as...

    Bay Area author Dave Iverson spoke about his experiences as a caregiver at the 2024 Symposium on Parkinson’s Disease which was presented by the Santa Cruz Parkinson’s Group. (Aric Sleeper/Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Stacy Kim and Paula Mierau who lead the “Climbing Out of Parkinson’s” program every Saturday at Pacific Edge Climbing Gym in Santa Cruz had a table full of climbing gear on display.

“We supply all the gear and we belay you,” said Kim. “It’s a fun group and we focus on the things that help people with Parkinson’s like big body motions, core muscles and it also works your brain because you have to figure out the path you’re going to take.”

For attendees and volunteers at the event such as Mark Grantham of Soquel who serves a caretaker for his husband who has Parkinson’s disease, getting together and discussing the disorder is a treatment in itself.

“It’s a support group in its own way,” said Grantham.

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