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today's seniors

Parkinson’s can unlock a patient’s hidden artistry


A surge of creativity is a common side effect for people with Parkinson’s disease. For Margie, a Covenant Village of Colorado resident, this newfound artistic inspiration was an “unexpected blessing.”

“I didn’t know when I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2013 that there were blessings attached,” said Margie. “Having never felt like I had a creative bone in my body, I was surprised when reading in the Parkinson’s literature that creativity was a ‘side effect’ of this progressive neurological disease. Who knew?”

Margie is one of a half-dozen students who take the P.E.A.C.E. (Persons with Parkinson’s Exploring Art and Creative Expression) art class offered at the LifeConnect University at Covenant Village of Colorado, in Westminster.

“With music playing in the background, and paper, canvas, and brushes at their fingertips, the students find themselves relaxing and finding that inner peace that is common during the creative process,” explained the class instructor and Resident Life Director, Vickie Krudwig. “Some students arrive to class with severe tremors and, once engaged in the practice of creativity and making art, the tremors slow dramatically.”

As with all LifeConnect University classes, the P.E.A.C.E. class is resident-initiated.

“Two years ago, a resident with Parkinson’s approached me looking for a way to tap this surge of creative energy.

His doctor suggested painting as a great creative outlet and one that might also improve his small motor skills,” explained Krudwig.

Herself an artist, she developed the curriculum for the 1.5-hour weekly class.

It’s a favorite, filling quickly each semester with both novice and seasoned artists.

The challenge, explained Krudwig, was to find innovative ways to adapt paintbrushes and other tools so the students could hold on to the brushes without them slipping from the fingers.

Krudwig worked one-on-one with students to help them find ways in which to adjust the sessions and equipment to fit their needs due to their physical complications caused by Parkinson’s disease.

Despite their tremors, Krudwig said the students are thriving.

“There is laughter and a camaraderie that helps one another cope with the day-to-day living with Parkinson’s disease,” she said.

Ramona, a 53-year-old Parkinson’s patient, explained, “Painting in our art class is very relaxing and seems to ease the tremors I have when I am painting. Vickie is so positive and patient and is encouraging about our work. She makes us feel like we have just painted a Picasso.”

In every good teacher is a thread of empathy.

Krudwig understands the challenges associated with neurological issues.

For 12 years, she had been diagnosed with what doctors thought was a serious neurological movement disorder. She recalls sharing her story with the class. “I was scared, and they listened sympathetically, then said, welcome to the club. We all laughed. That moment in time made me realize that I was getting more out of the class than my artists with Parkinson’s.”

APEX Community Recreation Center is showcasing their work in an exhibit through Sept. 20, with viewing hours Mondays-Thursdays, 8:15 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Fridays, 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. The APEX Community Recreation Center is located at 6842 Wadsworth Blvd. in Arvada.

LifeConnect University offers life-long learning classes that are designed to tap into the creative and intellectual energies of residents and guests. The classes are open to residents in the community and the metro-Denver area, free of charge. For more information about LifeConnect University or the exhibit, call (877) 341-0295.


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