Chelsea Senior Living Opens Door to Parkinson’s Sufferers for Rock Steady Boxing Program

July 5, 2019

TINTON FALLS, NJ–At age 84 and with Parkinson’s disease taking its toll on her mobility, Shirley Mabry could hardly walk without assistance, let alone get down on the floor to do crunches. That was before she was introduced to a program of exercise, motion and multi-tasking called Rock Steady Boxing, given right at her home at The Chelsea at Tinton Falls senior living residence.

“The first time, I was apprehensive because I’m not really nimble in my movements,” she recalled. “But as I was going each week, I was getting more confident. And I can now turn over in bed on both sides. And little things like that give me a feeling of optimism.”

Optimism and positive energy abound in the activity room of the Chelsea where the task stations are set up and the five participants, all coping with various stages of Parkinson’s, have two minutes to complete each task–boxing the heavy bag, lifting weights, walking a grid, tapping floor cones with a foot for balance or removing paper clips from a ball of goo for dexterity. It quickly becomes evident that the program is about more than just boxing.

“Boxing is just one component,” said Robin Moran, the Chelsea’s lifestyle assistant who spent two days in Indianapolis at Rock Steady Boxing headquarters becoming a certified coach. “The combination of the exercises are things that work on balance, coordination and strength as well as voice activation. A lot of yelling goes on, it’s a loud thing, to have a stronger voice.”

Moran’s partner in guiding the class is Stephany Garcia, a physical therapist from Fox Rehabilitation, a clinical partner at all of Chelsea’s assisted living communities. Garcia is also a certified Rock Steady Boxing coach and has found the program a perfect complement to her training for treatment of clients with Parkinson’s.

“It’s great for me to use what I have in my toolbox as a physical therapist to create exercises that are specific to clients that have Parkinson’s disease,” said Garcia. “We’re creating an exercise program that’s high intensity for individuals of all ages, because we can take as young as adults in their 20’s to adults in their 90’s.”

Garcia and Moran are in constant motion during the 90-minute class, which starts off with a Q&A session about some of the memorable jobs the participants have had, just to get them talking, then a low-impact workout to get the blood flowing. Each client moves to the extent they are able. Then, it’s off to the various stations for two-minute sessions, each client is accompanied by a “corner man.”

“It could be a spouse, it could be a friend, someone who comes with them every class,” explained Moran. “That is the person who makes sure they can keep their balance and they don’t fall over. That’s their safety net. And there’s a contract that goes with that. The corner man actually has to sign the contract, too.”

Rock Steady Boxing is offered free of charge to Chelsea Senior Living residents with Parkinson’s disease. The Tinton Fallsprogram currently has two Chelsea residents. Additionally, Chelsea underwrites the cost for three other individuals from the surrounding Tinton Falls community.

“The classes are open to the public and residents from all other Chelsea locations,” said Dawn Jones, BSN, Regional Health Services director for Chelsea Senior Living.

As for the program’s effectiveness, there seems to be no doubt about that in the minds of the participants and the experts.

“Their range of motion is improving dramatically,” said Garcia. “We’re seeing improvements in strength, the ability to get up from chairs. We’re seeing them walk around. Their balance is better. They’re not tripping as much. They’re not having as many falls. So, on a grand scale, everyone’s improved, I would say, from day one.”

“It’s made me more independent,” said Shirley Mabry. “I use the walker, but it’s now my assistant instead of my primary.”

For Moran, whose daily work is all about improving the lives of seniors through meaningful activities and recreation, Rock Steady Boxing has turned out to be one of her most rewarding pursuits. “It touches my heart to see how this can help people improve their daily life, to have the strength and coordination and dexterity to have basic life skills and to slow the progress of this disease,” she concluded.

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