Seniors strive to KO Parkinson’s |

Seniors strive to KO Parkinson’s

Movers and Shakers Boxing Club members Bill Williams, a military veteran, shows his boxing form with instructor Nadine Chrzanowski Wednesday at the Douglas County Community & Senior Center.
Brad Coman |

A gathering of students listened intently as instructors Nadine Chrzanowski and Ron Elges demonstrated boxing techniques.

This inaugural meeting of the Movers and Shakers Boxing Club at the Douglas County Community & Senior Center was no ordinary boxing class, though. Nor were the students, all over the age of 60 and some in their 80s, on hand simply for an hour’s worth of exercise.

Instead, the afternoon class was just one step in a program being offered to help patients in their fight against Parkinson’s Disease.

The next class is 4-5 p.m. Wednesday at the community & senior center and will be available every other week moving forward.

Participants may drop in at any time since no registration is taken and there is no charge for the class.

In all, 15 students and their care givers were on hand for this first class.

“It’s such a super thing,” said Sheri Karosich, Douglas County recreation coordinator for senior services. “Hopefully, it will grow and we can have the classes more often. Right now they’re doing it every week up in Carson City. We want to bring it down here because a lot of our people here don’t drive at night, so they’re missing out.”

She added that group members decided on the name Movers and Shakers Boxing Club as a way to make light of their battle against an opponent they can only hope to control and contain.

“It’s the combination of physical activity and mental focus that helps slow the progression of Parkinson’s,” Karosich said.

Chrzanowski noted that her grandmother was a victim of the disease.

“She passed away several years ago … she had a pretty severe Parkinson’s … so this is kind of important to me,” she said.

Earlier, the two volunteer instructors showed their class the basics of hitting a punching bag.

The students were taken through a progression of throwing a jab, a hook and then turning those into combinations of punches.

When Elges noticed one man throwing a rapid succession of lefts and rights, he directed the student to slow down.

“I want you to think … right … left … it’s a jab right,” Elges said.

Chrzanowski added: “The jab is straight forward. The hook comes from the side. Think of it as an L with your arm.”

The key element, from a Parkinson’s standpoint, is to think about what they are doing.

“You have to deliberately think in your head — to deliberately think, left and right — because that is what builds the connections and pathways in the brain,” Chrzanowski explained. “And you heard some of them talking afterward about how they have problems with memory and coordination along with balance issues. So for them to have to think, remember and then do it, that’s a huge part of helping manage their Parkinson’s.”

Elges saw progress from the “fighters” during the course of the first class.

“When you see them smile, it’s really amazing,” he said. “When they started to think about it, they did really good. It was amazing to watch what they could do.”

The instructors were clearly having as much fun as the students. Elges encouraged more instructors to come out and help make expansion of the program possible.

“Oh, yeah … giving back to the community. It’s been good to me; I’ve been here 33 years now,” said Elges, a 1986 Whittell High School graduate who started work at the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in 1994.

Chrzanowski explained that she and Elges are training partners who have taught hand-to-hand combat classes at the sheriff’s office for 12 years.

The class has been made possible through community contributions, Karosich emphasized.

“It truly has been a community effort,” she said. “Young at Heart paid for all the equipment; the local Big 5 who gave us a really good deal on the equipment and prices and Crossfit Carson Valley donated equipment as well,” she said. “So we were able to get all of these things that we needed and it was all local.”