Monday, June 25, 2018
Features and More

With tai chi, seniors cope with Parkinson's

SPRING HILL

A group of seniors — predominantly septuagenarians — gathers each Tuesday afternoon at a gym, moving with a distinct fluidity and grace. The half-dozen participants, who live with Parkinson's disease, spend an hour practicing tai chi and chi kung, a program of soft flexing, stretching and controlled breathing at Body Fitness.

Sponsored by the University of South Florida's Movement Disorder Center and the National Parkinson Foundation, it is geared to help people with the disease, a disorder of the nervous system that reduces muscular control.

"I don't have many outward signs," says Jim Hottel, one of the participants. "Sometimes I tell my hand to do something and by then I've spilled it or made a mess of something. I know what I intend to do, but …"

The Spring Hill resident takes no medications for the ailment that has limited his movements for a couple of years.

"It's really pretty good,'' he said of the program. "I find it's helpful to me, to a lot of people."

Another member of the group, Murray Plotkin, 77, tapped a reporter's notebook and declared, "My medications are as long as this sheet."

The former New York City train conductor suffered for 20 years before he was diagnosed with Parkinson's. His hands shook so much his boss asked him if he punched tickets with a machine gun.

Plotkin, who had three back surgeries in three years to go along with the Parkinson's, used to hobble around with a four-pronged cane.

"I couldn't stand for more than 10 minutes," he said. Now, with medicine and tai chi, "at least I'm walking around."

At a recent class, the Spring Hill resident stood alone, spread his feet to shoulder width and performed about 15 minutes of leg and arm exercises without incident.

J.J. Philips, the youngest of the group at 59, swallows daily "more meds than you can shake a stick at," including the first human trial of an antibiotic that has been shown to slow, and sometimes reverse, his type of illness in mice.

Philips, who has lived in Spring Hill for six years, was diagnosed in January 2009 with multiple system atrophy, MSA, which he described as "Parkinson's-plus."

"It's quicker than Parkinson's," said the former judge from Charleston County, S.C. "It's just like it says, all systems begin to atrophy.

He foresees the need for a cane, then a wheelchair, followed by bed confinement. MSA is currently incurable, he said.

The exercise program is a good fit for him.

"It helps me with my balance," he said. "I also have a bad disc in my back, which limits the exercise I can do, so this one I can do."

While he exercises at home on a limited basis, he added, "It's easier with a group. It gets you motivated."

Bob Emmans' bout with Parkinson's began six or seven years ago. With daily medications, the 78-year-old Spring Hill resident's hands still tremor and his legs lock up every now and then.

"I feel better after the program," said Emmans, who has been doing tai chi for three years. "I do it at home, occasionally at the gym here."

Class instructor Susan Frangello, a social worker at skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities for 40 years, has followed tai chi regimens for seven years and taught them for four throughout the Tampa Bay area.

She recently led her students through flexes and stretches of their shoulders, back, waist, arms, fingers and legs. With some seated and some standing, they regulated their breathing while performing dancelike movements to a fluid musical background, always reaching "for the chi, the life force," before finishing with a clasped-hands martial arts bow.

Comments
Restaurant review: Viva Napoli lovingly recreates Italian cuisine’s greatest hits

Restaurant review: Viva Napoli lovingly recreates Italian cuisine’s greatest hits

TAMPAAccording to Nation’s Restaurant News, Italian continues to be the country’s most beloved ethnic cuisine. I’ve fallen out of love and then gotten moony-eyed again several times over the past decade or so. It’s a cuisine that is manhandled, jerry...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Roseanne Barr breaks down sobbing in newly released interview after racist tweet: ‘I’ve lost everything’

Roseanne Barr breaks down sobbing in newly released interview after racist tweet: ‘I’ve lost everything’

An interview Roseanne Barr gave to a celebrity rabbi in the days after her infamous twitter rant was released Sunday, showing a weeping Barr pleading for forgiveness and saying "I’m not a racist. I’m an idiot."Rabbi Shmuley Boteach released the emoti...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Taste test: Frozen cod fillets

Taste test: Frozen cod fillets

Growing up, we knew what was for dinner by checking the kitchen sink after school to see what was in there thawing. Aside from the potential health concerns of thawing entrees at room temperature, dinner always required preplanning. Thankfully, we ha...
Published: 06/25/18
Finding the fun in a family road trip

Finding the fun in a family road trip

When Matt Villano sets out on the 560-mile road trip from his home in Healdsburg, California, to San Diego in July, his game plan will be carefully crafted. When you’re traveling with three kids under age 10, you have no choice.Villano, a freelance w...
Published: 06/23/18
See Datz pastry chef Alicia Wolding on Netflix’s Sugar Rush

See Datz pastry chef Alicia Wolding on Netflix’s Sugar Rush

When Alicia Wolding joined Datz as the new executive pastry chef last year her hair was rainbow — pretty much the whole ROY G BIV spectrum in cascading tresses. More recently, it’s bright purple, somewhere between iris and lilac. This is the color yo...
Published: 06/22/18
Enjoy Israeli Couscous, Swiss Chard and Peppers warm or at room temperature

Enjoy Israeli Couscous, Swiss Chard and Peppers warm or at room temperature

By Katie WorkmanIsraeli or Mediterranean couscous are tiny balls of toasted semolina pasta that plump up when cooked into toothsome, slightly less tiny balls of pasta. They make a great base for a side or salad. You can make the couscous according to...
Published: 06/22/18
Parody and theater trivia combine in Freefall’s light-hearted of ‘Musical of Musicals’

Parody and theater trivia combine in Freefall’s light-hearted of ‘Musical of Musicals’

ST. PETERSBURG — Forgive yourself if you recognize only a portion of the dozens of musicals being lampooned in The Musical of Musicals — The Musical!, Freefall Theatre’s season closer. This mash-up of the works of five celebrated composers reads like...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bar review: St. Pete’s Garage is a dive with Pride

Bar review: St. Pete’s Garage is a dive with Pride

Last year’s St. Pete Pride went smoothly, despite some behind-the-scenes drama involving the decision to relocate the parade to the downtown waterfront, rather than the Grand Central District, where it had traditionally been held. After all, the Gran...
Published: 06/21/18
Local craft beer of the week: Beach Slap Piña Colada Wheat Ale from Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company

Local craft beer of the week: Beach Slap Piña Colada Wheat Ale from Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company

"Hooray, it’s summer!" exclaimed no Floridians. But if it’s summer proper and not just the usual year-round weather, you might as well embrace the heat and humidity with a trip to the beach, accompanied by some suitably refreshing beers. While you’r...
Published: 06/21/18
Wine dinners, beer projects and more will wet your whistle this summer

Wine dinners, beer projects and more will wet your whistle this summer

FILIPINO FOOD: WELCOME CHISMISHave you been to the Heights Public Market at the 73,000-square-foot Armature Works yet? It’s the buzzy food market in Tampa Heights with more than a dozen vendors offering up everything from rolled ice cream to Cuban sa...
Published: 06/20/18